Two male elephant seals spar with one another in slow motion, both on land and in the shallows. They smash their bloodied bodies against each other as they lunge, growl, and bite. Rogers and Kaplan write, "[The seals] have communicated on a matter of disputed territory and partner ownership has been decided." Directly witness this communication through their tactical movements.
A sitting mother orangutan holds her baby boy as he alternates between gazing up at her open-mouthed and burying his face in her chest. She licks his mouth when he yawns and puckers her lips against his forehead. According to Rogers and Kaplan, "A bond has formed between mother and infant and is maintained by communication." Touching, smelling, tasting, smiling, kissing...these are all methods of communication between the great ape and her baby.
The opening statistic suggests that sexual openness in female humans can be detected in part by the number of eyebrow flashes she produces when looking at a potential mate. Rogers and Kaplan describe this behavior as, "[when] someone giving a friendly greeting to another person raises his or her eyebrows" and that it is "both signaled and received unintentionally". Watch as the woman's facial expression changes, especially the movement her eyebrows make, when she sees the man in color rather than black and white.
A pair of great crested grebes perform their intricately choreographed, precisely timed courtship ritual. Watch as they turn their heads, stretch their feet, and skim across the lake in unison. What does this kind of visual signal between pairs accomplish? Rogers and Kaplan write, "courtship rituals...have evolved to form and maintain bonds between individuals and to ensure that mating behavior is confined to members of the same species".
The male riflebird, with his rounded black wings and bright turquoise throat, hops and flicks his head side to side in a dance-like motion. The movement is accompanied by a loud, sharp vocalization. The smaller, brown female watches intently, sizing up the potential mate and assessing his display. "The combined auditory and visual performance attracts the female...[and she may] cease [to be sexually responsive] if he stops displaying," write Rogers and Kaplan. This display demonstrates just how important communication is both in encouraging and preventing changes in the signal receiver's behavior.
A female cat signals being "in heat", a biological period of sexual receptiveness called estrus, through various movements of her body, head, and tail. She rubs along the surface, rolls over from her belly to her back, and repeats these motions. When stimulated at the base of her tail by a human hand, she holds a specific crouching posture. Rogers and Kaplan describe this behavior as "longer-delay signaling", due to the fact that a potential mate may not respond sexually until the female has reached the peak of estrus, despite the mate having successfully received the communication.
The superb lyrebird mimics other bird calls and even man-made noises to impress potential mates. He is signaling his superior genes to female birds, especially with his grandiose accopanying plumage, in addition to letting other males know that this is his territory. This would be considered "honest signaling" by Rogers and Kaplan, as it is a type of signaling "that requires such large amounts of effort...[and] lets the receiver know something important about the signaler, his size or physical health and strength, for example" (p 8).
In order to attract a female bowerbird, the male cannot simply build a nest of plain, brown sticks. He needs the color blue, and plenty of it. Watch as the female signals her disinterest by quickly retreating from the nest and observing from a nearby branch as the male bowerbird works to earn her affection by collecting items all of the color blue. This is another example of "honest signaling", demonstrating the male's good eyesight or strong foraging skills.
This video demonstrates the variety of calls, dances, and markings that make up the displays male birds of paradise use to attract potential female mates. It brings attention to two birds specifically: the six-plumed and superb birds of paradise. Both are especially captivating due to the unique shapes their wings and feathers take on during their signaling.
A male peacock struts about and fans his ornate, colorful tail, making sharp cries during his sexual signaling. Even though his cumbersome tail can be classified as a "handicap" (Zahavi & Zahavi 1997), it is precisely for this reason that females prefer their mate's tails to adhere to these qualities (i.e., great length and a multitude of eyespots) as much as possible. "The tail demonstrates a male's ability to survive despite the handicap...he must be healthy [and is more] likely to have 'good' genes", write Rogers and Kaplan.
Brightly colored toads, lizards, and butterflies use aposematism, or warning coloration, to signal to predators that they are poisonous. This type of communication can be mutually beneficial to both predator and prey, as the first avoids a dangerous meal and the second gets to survive another day. "The potential prey signals to the predator in an attempt to deflect its attack," write Rogers and Kaplan, using this as an example of interspecies communication.
The pufferfish houses toxins within its liver and skin, but has an additional strategy for escaping predators. "When cornered by a predator, the last resort of the potential prey is to try and scare off the predator by looking as big as possible", explain Rogers and Kaplan, which is exactly what the pufferfish does. Watch as the pufferfish gulps water into its stomach, bloating itself to a greater size and raising its spikes, in order to make its getaway.
The Mimic Octopus can change its shape and appearance to match that of fish, snakes, and other sea creatures (often poisonous ones!) living in its environment. Via changes in coloring and texture, and retracting or hiding some of its tentacles, the octopus camouflages itself in startling ways that made it difficult for scientists to even identify its species. The octupus tricks potential predators through this mimicry, another example of interspecies communication.
Rogers and Kaplan describe the tactic a mother plover uses to draw predators to her and away from her nest: feigning injury. "As the predator approaches, the mother plover moves away from the nest in a manner that would signal she has a broken wing. This is a dramatic form of interspecies signaling." In this video, a wild killdeer mother has built her nest and laid her eggs amongst the grassy pebbles of a small parking lot concrete island. When a man approaches this nest, her protective signaling begins. She first employs feather raising to make herself appear larger and lets out piercing cries, but once he gets too close, she puts on an even more dramatic display by pretending to be injured. This is an example of dishonest signaling, because the injured behavior is a ploy to draw the predator away from the nest and to herself instead.
Witness a more light-hearted scenario here where a pup named Bruno feigns injury to avoid going for a walk in the cold.
As soon as springbok antelopes catch wind of predator cheetahs lurking nearby, they begin running and jumping high in the air, a behavior termed stotting. The video narrator describes this tactic as a warning to other antelopes that a predator is nearby, as well as a way to confuse the predator itself. However, Zahavi (1979) posits instead that stotting, "signal[s] the [antelope's] physical fitness and therefore its ability to escape". More evidence has additionally been demonstrated to assert that this is the true communicative value behind the behavior.
Rogers and Kaplan outline the behavior of vervet monkeys exploiting the alarm call of starling birds for their own safety: "Other forms of interspecies communication involve detection of predators but not direct signaling to the predator itself...The monkeys heed the starling's alarm signal and take cover." However, in this video, the drongo bird sneakily uses the meerkat's similar response - heading immediately to safety when hearing the bird's alarm signal - to trick them into doing so when there isn't really a predator, and thus stealing the food they were gathering.
Wolves, dogs, and other mammals make "weapons display" signals when they are about to attack or threatening to do so. Watch as the female wolf bares her teeth, raises her ears, and opens her eyes wide to address her sister, who gets too close to her food. Rogers and Kaplan describe the importance of noting all features involved in these kinds of displays, not just the bared teeth: "...the bared teeth display is accompanied by changes in the eyes, ears, and body posture..." One combination is "threatening", while the other demonstrates fear.
Rogers and Kaplan suggest that a dog displaying, "teeth bared, eyes almost closed, ears flattened, and tail down between its legs is afraid and will flee unless it is cornered". This video, however, speaks to the importance of noting all of the signals that the dog is displaying. She has flattened ears and a tucked tail, but her eyes are open and her tongue lolls out of her mouth. She is not fearful, but rather submissive and friendly, using this tactic to beg and interact safely with humans and other dogs.
"Some of the behavioral and physical adjustments that animals must make to maintain their physiological state are also used to signal," write Rogers and Kaplan (p 21). This is particularly true in avian displays, such as feather raising and feather sleeking made by the owl when confronted face-to-face with two birds of different sizes. Both behaviors signal agression or fear, but are also automatic responses by the owl's body to reduce or increase heat loss.
A grey squirrel marks a wooden backyard table over a period of four days. He urinates frequently on the table, brings nut shells and food bits onto it, and smells and rubs his face along the top of it to release scents from glands around his mouth. All of these behaviors work together to signal that this table is now part of his territory.
Wondering if your crush likes you back? Human pupils dilate when experiencing attraction. This is an example of an "automatic response that occur[s] in a state of high arousal", write Rogers and Kaplan. The video outlines other involuntarily automatic responses that demonstrate human attraction, and might give you some insight into whether or not your crush feels the same way about you.