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The Evolution of Animal Communication: Reliability and Deception in Signaling Systems

The Evolution of Animal Communication: Reliability and Deception in Signaling Systems

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Evolution of Animal Communication: Reliability and Deception in Signaling Systems
    Book Description:

    Gull chicks beg for food from their parents. Peacocks spread their tails to attract potential mates. Meerkats alert family members of the approach of predators. But are these--and other animals--sometimes dishonest? That's what William Searcy and Stephen Nowicki ask inThe Evolution of Animal Communication. They take on the fascinating yet perplexing question of the dependability of animal signaling systems.

    The book probes such phenomena as the begging of nesting birds, alarm calls in squirrels and primates, carotenoid coloration in fish and birds, the calls of frogs and toads, and weapon displays in crustaceans. Do these signals convey accurate information about the signaler, its future behavior, or its environment? Or do they mislead receivers in a way that benefits the signaler? For example, is the begging chick really hungry as its cries indicate or is it lobbying to get more food than its brothers and sisters?

    Searcy and Nowicki take on these and other questions by developing clear definitions of key issues, by reviewing the most relevant empirical data and game theory models available, and by asking how well theory matches data. They find that animal communication is largely reliable--but that this basic reliability also allows the clever deceiver to flourish. Well researched and clearly written, their book provides new insight into animal communication, behavior, and evolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3572-0
    Subjects: Zoology, Mathematics, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures, Boxes, and Table
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    Whether signals are reliable or deceptive has been a central question in the study of animal communication in recent years. The crux of the issue is whether animal signals are honest, in the sense of conveying reliable information from signaler to receiver, or deceitful, in the sense of conveying unreliable information, the falsity of which somehow benefits the signaler. This issue arises in a variety of contexts. When a male courts a female, do his signals honestly convey his quality relative to other males? Or does he exaggerate his quality in order to win over females that would otherwise choose...

  6. 2 Signaling When Interests Overlap
    (pp. 24-77)

    The interests of two individuals overlap in an evolutionary sense when the fitness of one depends, at least in part, on the fitness of the other. Such a positive fitness relation occurs whenever two individuals are genetically related; because they share genes, the overall success of one relative’s genes depends to some extent on the success of the other’s. Additional causes of convergent interests are possible, for example when the members of a mated pair depend on each other’s continued survival and good health for successful reproduction, or when the members of a group depend on each other for safety...

  7. 3 Signaling When Interests Diverge
    (pp. 78-133)

    This chapter concerns mating signals, those signals used by individuals of one sex to attract individuals of the other sex with the goal of inducing them to mate. In most mating systems, one sex does the bulk of the signaling, or “advertisement,” while the other sex exercises choice among the signalers. A large literature exists that seeks, with considerable success, to explain why it is usually males that signal and females that choose (Bateman 1948, Trivers 1972, Clutton-Brock and Vincent 1991). Exceptions occur, but we shall take the usual pattern as a given, and as a shorthand we will speak...

  8. 4 Signaling When Interests Oppose
    (pp. 134-180)

    When two unrelated animals compete for some resource, generally speaking one must win and the other lose—one will get the food, the mate, or the territory, and the other will not. A given outcome will benefit the winner and harm the loser, and in that sense the interests of the two are diametrically opposed. But it may be better for both contestants to settle the contest by signaling rather than by fighting, and therefore it is not surprising that a great deal of communication occurs in aggressive contexts. Questions of reliability and deceit seem particularly pressing in such contexts,...

  9. 5 Honesty and Deception in Communication Networks
    (pp. 181-206)

    Our analysis of honesty and deception thus far has taken as its starting point an implied view of communication as a fundamentally dyadic interaction, with a sender and a receiver that may differ in their evolutionary interests, but which nonetheless interact with each other independently of the influences of other actors. This dyadic view of communication has provided an appropriate platform for our discussion, for two reasons. First, viewing communication as a dyadic interaction has long been the dominant perspective in studies of animal communication (Marler and Hamilton 1966, Brown 1975, Wilson 1975), and most of the literature has taken...

  10. 6 Conclusions
    (pp. 207-224)

    From what we know about how natural selection works, we can assume that animals will produce signals only if doing so increases their own fitness. Similarly, we can assume that receivers will respond to signals only if doing so increasestheirfitness. The sole value of a signal to a receiver is as a source of information, information that it uses in choosing the behavioral, physiological, or developmental responses that will maximize its fitness. The set of responses that is best for the receiver, however, will only rarely be identical with the set that is best for the signaler. Selection...

  11. References
    (pp. 225-256)
  12. Author Index
    (pp. 257-261)
  13. Subject Index
    (pp. 262-270)