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Animal Signals & Communication: Types & Examples

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  • 0:01 Animal Communication
  • 0:21 Signal & Communication
  • 2:08 Chemical Communication
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

How do you communicate with your family and friends? Can you name the four kinds of animal communication? By the end of this lesson, you'll definitely be able to!

Animal Communication

How do you communicate with your fellow man and woman? Do you use sign language? Do you talk? Do you read lips? Do you just blink or give weird stares?

There's more than one way you can communicate with people, and animals have more than one form of communication, as well. Let's take a look at the forms of animal communication!

Signal & Communication

Communication is the transmission and receipt of a signal from one individual to another, and a signal is a stimulus transmitted from one individual to another.

So, that could mean:

  • An auditory stimulus, like a bark
  • A visual stimulus, like an inflated pufferfish
  • A tactile stimulus, like monkeys grooming one another
  • Or even a chemical stimulus, like a particular odor

Actually, because I gave a bunch of totally different examples for these stimuli, let me put them together in one example for you.

The courtship behavior of the fruit fly utilizes all four methods of animal communication: auditory, visual, chemical, and tactile. In this example, the male fruit fly sees a female and orients himself towards her. He also uses his sense of smell to detect chemicals she has released into the surrounding air. And, trying to avoid a harassment lawsuit, he gently touches the female fruit fly with his leg. He then begins to vibrate his wings in order to produce a song for her.

And while this seems simplistic, don't be fooled. When humans perform the dating dance, we're basically doing the same things as the fruit flies. Gentle touches, looking at one another, perfumes and colognes, and even songs we play for one another or sing for one another.

And like us, animals use communication for far more than just courtship. For instance, the European honeybee is able to communicate the direction and distance to a food source to another honeybee by using specific body movements and patterns. We used to think bees only communicated by buzzing. The reality is that animals use forms of communication that are far more complex and varied than we once believed.

Chemical Communication

The chemical messengers the female fruit fly released during the mating ritual are known as pheromones, small molecules released outside of the body for communication between individuals of the same species, producing a physiological and/or behavioral change in the recipient.

Pheromones are most common among mammals and insects, and they are usually involved in reproductive behavior. However, while pheromones are stereotypically associated with reproduction and courtship rituals, their role goes far beyond this.

As an example, a type of fish, a minnow, can release pheromones from its skin when it's injured. This acts as a signal to all the other minnows to be on high alert for a possible predator and to run off into a safe area of the lake.

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