Animal Communication - Essay

Topics: Crow, Corvidae, Hooded Crow Pages: 5 (1367 words) Published: January 6, 2011
Animal Communication
Animal communication is any behavior on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behaviour of another animal. The study of animal communication, sometimes called Zoosemiotics (distinguishable from anthroposemiotics, the study of human communication) has played an important part in the methodology of ethology, sociobiology, and the study ofanimal cognition. Animal communication, and indeed the understanding of the animal world in general, is a rapidly growing field, and even in the 21st century so far, many prior understandings related to diverse fields such as personal symbolic name use, animal emotions, animal culture and learning, and even sexual conduct, long thought to be well understood, have been revolutionized.

Forms of communication
The best known forms of communication involve the display of distinctive body parts, or distinctive bodily movements; often these occur in combination, so a distinctive movement acts to reveal or emphasize a distinctive body part. An example that was important in the history of ethnology was the parent Herring Gull's presentation of its bill to a chick in the nest. Like many gulls, the Herring Gull has a brightly colored bill, yellow with a red spot on the lower mandible near the tip. When it returns to the nest with food, the parent stands over its chick and taps the bill on the ground in front of it; this elicits a begging response from a hungry chick (pecking at the red spot), which stimulates the parent to regurgitate food in front of it. The complete signal therefore involves a distinctive morphological feature (body part), the red-spotted bill, and a distinctive movement (tapping towards the ground) which makes the red spot highly visible to the chick. Page 1
Interpretation of animal communication
It is important to note that whilst many gestures and actions have common, stereotypical meanings, researchers regularly seem to find that animal communication is often more complex and subtle than previously believed, and that the same gesture may have multiple distinct meanings depending on context and other behaviors. So generalizations such as "X means Y" are often, but not always accurate. For example, even a simple domestic dog's tail wag may be used in subtly different ways to convey many meanings including: * Excitement

* Anticipation
* Playfulness
* Contentment/enjoyment
* Relaxation or anxiety
* Questioning another animal or a human as to intentions
* Tentative role assessment on meeting another animal
* Reassurance ("I'm hoping to be friendly, are you?")
* Brief acknowledgement ("I hear you", or "I'm aware and responsive if you want my attention") * Statement of interest ("I want that (food/toy/activity), if you're willing") * Uncertainty/apprehension

* Submissive placation (if worried by a more dominant animal) Combined with other body language, in a specific context, many gestures such as yawns, direction of vision, and so on all convey meaning. Thus statements that a particular action "means" something should always be interpreted to mean "often means" something. As with human beings, who may smile or hug or stand a particular way for multiple reasons, many animals reuse gestures too. Page 2

What we know about crow communication.
The most obvious characteristics of the American crow are that it is big, black, and makes a lot of noise. The most obvious sound that crows make is the one written in English as caw. Caws may be long or short, loud or relatively soft, given singly or in sequences, made by one bird alone or by two or more birds under a variety of...
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