Communication is a crucial part of human life, but we're not the only ones doing it. The animal kingdom is rife with various methods of communication. From visual to sonar, animals use every possible way of "talking." Click to learn more about the many forms of animal communication.
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VISUAL - BADGES
The many different forms of visual communication that animals use are categorized as either "badges" or "displays." A badge is the color and shape of an animal. For example, the male American goldfinch's bright yellow plumes (pictured) act as a signal to potential mates. His "badge" is meant to attract a female once she sees the bright colors. (Source)
VISUAL - DISPLAY
The other category of visual communication is display. Display behaviors often indicate an animal's mood. For one common example, a dog's tail signals how it feels. The direction of tail wagging communicates if a dog is anxious or happy. Display can also demonstrate status within a hierarchy. For example, chimpanzees crouch to show submissiveness to dominant members of their groups. (Source)
Communication by sound can attract potential mates, warn others of danger, deter enemies or express happiness. For example, wolves howl to signal to members of their pack. They are able to identify each other through their calls over large distances. Red squirrels rattle, screech and yip to warn off potential predators that come too close. (Source)
Animals use touch to show affection, offer comfort, signal fear or convey dominance to each other. Elephants are in almost constant physical contact with members of their herd. They use their highly sensitive trunks to stroke fellow herd members' heads and backs to comfort or console them. They flap one another's ears or flick tails to show camaraderie. Calves put their trunks in their mothers' mouths for reassurance. Low-ranked elephants also do this with the herd matriarch. (Source)
Many animals use pheromones or chemical markings to communicate. They leave their scent to claim territories as their own. Scents can also attract mates or warn off predators. Skunks are infamous for their ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid as self-defense. They can hit a target from a distance of 15 feet with the noxious spray, teaching potential threats to give a wide berth. (Source)
Those that communicate with sonar (aka echolocation) are primarily marine animals and bats. Bats emit pulses of extremely high-pitched sounds that are too high for the human ear to detect. The bats listen for the sound to bounce off nearby objects. This provides information about the surrounding environment. Bats also employ sophisticated vocalizations to defend territory, repel intruders, instruct offspring and identify one another. Male bats also use their vocalizations to "sing" courtship songs that are unique to each bat. (Source)
Marine mammals like whales and dolphins use sonar underwater as a form of communication. Because sound travels better through water than through air, marine animals are able to communicate over large distances. Dolphins are very social and communicate with each other using clicks, whistles and trills. After sending out these sounds, they interpret the echoes that come back to them. Whales also "sing" to each other, changing the tone and pitch of sounds that can last up to 20 minutes. (Source)
Seismic communication — sending vibrations through soil or through plant stems — is found frequently in many different insects as well as some mammals. The vibrations are produced by drumming, vibrating the entire body or rubbing certain body parts together. Different creature may use vibrations for purposes of mating, defense or raising alarms. The treehopper (pictured) uses a highly developed vibrational system to coordinate feedings between members of its social group. (Source)
Next: Weird Animal Habits
Some fish communicate with each other using electrical signals called electric organ discharges (EOD). The fish send EODs through water to other fish who receive the discharges with electroreceptors. EODs can vary in frequency, duration, signal type and structure. The variations communicate different messages. The elephant nose fish, for example, uses electrocommunication to interpret species, gender, social status and even the level of aggression in other fish. Males can also use specific patterns of EODs during courtship. (Source)
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