Walk near woods or water on any spring or summer night and you will hear a bewildering (and sometimes deafening) chorus of frog, toad, and insect calls. How are these calls produced? What messages are encoded within the sounds, and how do their intended recipients receive and decode these signals? How does acoustic communication affect and reflect behavioral and evolutionary factors such as sexual selection and predator avoidance?
H. Carl Gerhardt and Franz Huber address these questions among many others, drawing on research from bioacoustics, behavior, neurobiology, and evolutionary biology to present the first integrated approach to the study of acoustic communication in insects and anurans. They highlight both the common solutions that these very different groups have evolved to shared challenges, such as small size, ectothermy (cold-bloodedness), and noisy environments, as well as the divergences that reflect the many differences in evolutionary history between the groups. Throughout the book Gerhardt and Huber also provide helpful suggestions for future research.
Can a parrot understand complex concepts and mean what it says? Since the early 1900s, most studies on animal-human communication have focused on great apes and a few cetacean species. Birds were rarely used in similar studies on the grounds that they were merely talented mimics--that they were, after all, "birdbrains." Experiments performed primarily on pigeons in Skinner boxes demonstrated capacities inferior to those of mammals; these results were thought to reflect the capacities of all birds, despite evidence suggesting that species such as jays, crows, and parrots might be capable of more impressive cognitive feats.
Twenty years ago Irene Pepperberg set out to discover whether the results of the pigeon studies necessarily meant that other birds--particularly the large-brained, highly social parrots--were incapable of mastering complex cognitive concepts and the rudiments of referential speech. Her investigation and the bird at its center--a male Grey parrot named Alex--have since become almost as well known as their primate equivalents and no less a subject of fierce debate in the field of animal cognition. This book represents the long-awaited synthesis of the studies constituting one of the landmark experiments in modern comparative psychology.
In this book, W. John Smith enlarges ethology's perspective on communication and takes it in new directions. Traditionally, ethological analysis has focused on the motivational states of displaying animals: What makes the bird sing, the cat lash its tail, the bee dance? The Behavior of Communicating emphasizes messages. It seeks to answer questions about the information shared by animals through their displays: What information is made available to a bird by its neighbor's song, to a cat by its opponent's gesture, to a bee by its hivemate's dancing? What information is extracted from sources contextual to these displays? How are the responses to displays adaptive for recipients and senders? What evolutionary processes and constraints underlie observed patterns of animal communication?
Smith's approach is deeply rooted in the ethological tradition of naturalistic observations. Detailed analysis of observed displays and display repertoires illuminates the theoretical discussion that forms the core of the book. A taxonomy and interpretative analysis of messages made available through formalized display behavior are also developed. Smith shows that virtually all subhuman animal displays may be interpreted as transmitting messages about the communicator--not the environment--and, more specifically, that messages indicate the kinds of behavior the displaying animal may choose to perform. The most widespread behavioral messages are surprisingly general, even banal, in character; yet they make public information that is not readily available from other sources and that would otherwise be essentially private to the communicator. Taken along with information from sources contextual to the displays, the messages made available may permit responses that are markedly specific. By taking advantage of contextual specificity, a species expands the capacity of its display behavior to be functional in numerous and diverse circumstances.
After developing the concept of messages and discussing their forms, the responses made to them, and the functions engendered, Smith turns to the evolution of display behavior--the ways in which acts become specialized for communication and the nature of the evolutionary constraints affecting the ultimate forms of displays. He revises the traditional ethological concept of displays, and in a final chapter develops the further concept of formalized interactions. Here he extends the discussion to formal patterns of behavior that, unlike displays, are beyond the capabilities of individual performers. Human nonverbal communication, which is considered from time to time throughout the book, provides the richest examples of communication flexibly structured at this level of complexity.
This book explores the strikingly similar ways in which information is encoded in nonverbal man-made signals (e.g., traffic lights and tornado sirens) and animal-evolved signals (e.g., color patterns and vocalizations). The book also considers some coding principles for reducing certain unwanted redundancies and explains how desirable redundancies enhance communication reliability.
Jack Hailman believes this work pioneers several aspects of analyzing human and animal communication. The book is the first to survey man-made signals as a class. It is also the first to compare such human-devised systems with signaling in animals by showing the highly similar ways in which the two encode information. A third innovation is generalizing principles of quantitative information theory to apply to a broad range of signaling systems. Finally, another first is distinguishing among types of redundancy and their separation into unwanted and desirable categories.
This remarkably novel book will be of interest to a wide readership. Appealing not only to specialists in semiotics, animal behavior, psychology, and allied fields but also to general readers, it serves as an introduction to animal signaling and to an important class of human communication.
In the songs and bubble feeding of humpback whales; in young killer whales learning to knock a seal from an ice floe in the same way their mother does; and in the use of sea sponges by the dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, to protect their beaks while foraging for fish, we find clear examples of the transmission of information among cetaceans. Just as human cultures pass on languages and turns of phrase, tastes in food (and in how it is acquired), and modes of dress, could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own?
Unequivocally: yes. In The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead, who has spent much of his life on the ocean trying to understand whales, and Luke Rendell, whose research focuses on the evolution of social learning, open an astounding porthole onto the fascinating culture beneath the waves. As Whitehead and Rendell show, cetacean culture and its transmission are shaped by a blend of adaptations, innate sociality, and the unique environment in which whales and dolphins live: a watery world in which a hundred-and-fifty-ton blue whale can move with utter grace, and where the vertical expanse is as vital, and almost as vast, as the horizontal.
Drawing on their own research as well as a scientific literature as immense as the sea—including evolutionary biology, animal behavior, ecology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience—Whitehead and Rendell dive into realms both humbling and enlightening as they seek to define what cetacean culture is, why it exists, and what it means for the future of whales and dolphins. And, ultimately, what it means for our future, as well.
Humans aside, dolphins, whales, and porpoises are often considered to be the smartest creatures on Earth. Science and nature buffs are drawn to stories of their use of tools, their self-recognition, their beautiful and complex songs, and their intricate societies. But how do we know what we know, and what does it mean? In Deep Thinkers, renowned cetacean biologist Janet Mann gathers a gam of the world’s leading whale and dolphin researchers—including Luke Rendell, Hal Whitehead, and many more—to illuminate these vital questions, exploring the astounding capacities of cetacean brains.
Diving into our current understanding of and dynamic research on dolphin and whale cognition, communication, and culture, Deep Thinkers reveals how incredibly sophisticated these mammals are—and how much we can learn about other animal minds by studying cetacean behavior. Through a combination of fascinating text and more than 150 beautiful and informative illustrations, chapters compare the intelligence markers of cetaceans with those of birds, bats, and primates, asking how we might properly define intelligence in nonhumans. As all-encompassing and profound as the seas in which these deep cetacean cultures have evolved, Deep Thinkers is an awesome and inspiring journey into the fathoms—a reminder of what we gain through their close study, and of what we lose when the great minds of the sea disappear.
Dialogues on the Human Ape
Laurent Dubreuil University of Minnesota Press, 2018 Library of Congress QL737.P9D69 2019 | Dewey Decimal 599.88
A primatologist and a humanist together explore the meaning of being a “human animal”
Humanness is typically defined by our capacity for language and abstract thinking. Yet decades of research led by the primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh has shown that chimpanzees and bonobos can acquire human language through signing and technology.
Drawing on this research, Dialogues of the Human Ape brings Savage-Rumbaugh into conversation with the philosopher Laurent Dubreuil to explore the theoretical and practical dimensions of what being a “human animal” means. In their use of dialogue as the primary mode of philosophical and scientific inquiry, the authors transcend the rigidity of scientific and humanist discourses, offering a powerful model for the dissemination of speculative hypotheses and open-ended debates grounded in scientific research.
Arguing that being human is an epigenetically driven process rather than a fixed characteristic rooted in genetics or culture, this book suggests that while humanness may not be possible in every species, it can emerge in certain supposedly nonhuman species. Moving beyond irrational critiques of ape consciousness that are motivated by arrogant, anthropocentric views, Dialogues on the Human Ape instead takes seriously the continuities between the ape mind and the human mind, addressing why language matters to consciousness, free will, and the formation of the “human animal” self.
Mother and infant negotiate over food; two high-status males jockey for power; female kin band together to get their way. It happens among humans and it happens among our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, the great apes of Africa. In this eye-opening book, we see precisely how such events unfold in chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas: through a spontaneous, mutually choreographed dance of actions, gestures, and vocalizations in which social partners create meaning and come to understand each other.
Using dynamic systems theory, an approach employed to study human communication, Barbara King is able to demonstrate the genuine complexity of apes' social communication, and the extent to which their interactions generate meaning. As King describes, apes create meaning primarily through their body movements--and go well beyond conveying messages about food, mating, or predators. Readers come to know the captive apes she has observed, and others across Africa as well, and to understand "the process of creating social meaning."
This new perspective not only acquaints us with our closest living relatives, but informs us about a possible pathway for the evolution of language in our own species. King's theory challenges the popular idea that human language is instinctive, with rules and abilities hardwired into our brains. Rather, The Dynamic Dance suggests, language has its roots in the gestural "building up of meaning" that was present in the ancestor we shared with the great apes, and that we continue to practice to this day.
Constantine Slobodchikoff and colleagues synthesize the results of their long-running study of Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni), one of the keystone species of the short-grass prairie ecosystem. They set their research in the context of the biology of the five Cynomys species found in the United States and Mexico, and detail their investigation into the prairie dogs’ sophisticated system of barks, yips, and chirps, which Slobodchikoff argues represents a referential communication capable of fine distinctions among predators.
Seen as vermin that spoiled valuable rangeland, prairie dogs were long the subject of eradication campaigns and are now threatened by habitat loss and the loss of genetic diversity. The authors hope their research will help to pull the prairie dog back from the brink of extinction, as well as foster an appreciation of larger conservation challenges. By examining the complex factors behind prairie dog decline, we can begin to understand the problems inherent in our adversarial relationship with the natural world. Understanding these interactions is the first step toward a more sustainable future.
In the early 1890s the theory of evolution gained an unexpected ally: the Edison phonograph. An amateur scientist used the new machine—one of the technological wonders of the age—to record monkey calls, play them back to the monkeys, and watch their reactions. From these soon-famous experiments he judged that he had discovered “the simian tongue,” made up of words he was beginning to translate, and containing the rudiments from which human language evolved. Yet for most of the next century, the simian tongue and the means for its study existed at the scientific periphery. Both returned to great acclaim only in the early 1980s, after a team of ethologists announced that experimental playback showed certain African monkeys to have rudimentarily meaningful calls.
Drawing on newly discovered archival sources and interviews with key scientists, Gregory Radick here reconstructs the remarkable trajectory of a technique invented and reinvented to listen in on primate communication. Richly documented and powerfully argued, The Simian Tongue charts the scientific controversies over the evolution of language from Darwin’s day to our own, resurrecting the forgotten debts of psychology, anthropology, and other behavioral sciences to the Victorian debate about the animal roots of human language.
In creatures as different as crickets and scorpions, mole rats and elephants, there exists an overlooked channel of communication: signals transmitted as vibrations through a solid substrate. Peggy Hill summarizes a generation of groundbreaking work by scientists around the world on this long understudied form of animal communication.
Beginning in the 1970s, Hill explains, powerful computers and listening devices allowed scientists to record and interpret vibrational signals. Whether the medium is the sunbaked savannah or the stem of a plant, vibrations can be passed along from an animal to a potential mate, or intercepted by a predator on the prowl. Vibration appears to be an ancient means of communication, widespread in both invertebrate and vertebrate taxa. Hill synthesizes in this book a flowering of research, field studies documenting vibrational signals in the wild, and the laboratory experiments that answered such questions as what adaptations allowed animals to send and receive signals, how they use signals in different contexts, and how vibration as a channel might have evolved.
Vibrational Communication in Animals promises to become a foundational text for the next generation of researchers putting an ear to the ground.