Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

From crickets to whales, animal calls have something in common

Date:
January 6, 2010
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
Animals produce a tremendous diversity of sounds for communication to perform life's basic functions, from courtship and parental care to defense and foraging. Explaining this diversity in sound production is important for understanding the ecology, evolution and behavior of species. Scientists have presented a theory of acoustic communication that shows that much of the diversity in animal vocal signals can be explained based on the energetic constraints of sound production.

Cricket.
Credit: iStockphoto/Kostas Koutsoukos

Scientists who compare insect chirps with ape calls may look like they are mixing aphids and orangutans, but researchers have found common denominators in the calls of hundreds of species of insects, birds, fish, frogs, lizards and mammals that can be predicted with simple mathematical models.

Compiling data from nearly 500 species, scientists with the University of Florida and Oklahoma State University have found the calls of crickets, whales and a host of other creatures are ultimately controlled by their metabolic rates -- in other words, their uptake and use of energy.

"Very few people have compared cricket chirps to codfish sounds to the sounds made by whales and monkeys to see if there were commonalities in the key features of acoustic signals, including the frequency, power and duration of signals," said James Gillooly, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of biology at UF's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a member of the UF Genetics Institute. "Our results indicate that, for all species, basic features of acoustic communication are primarily controlled by individual metabolism, which in turn varies predictably with body size and temperature. So, when the calls are adjusted for an animal's size and temperature, they even sound alike."

The finding, reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, will help scientists understand how acoustic communication evolved across species, uniting a field of study that has long focused on the calls of particular groups of animals, such as birds.

The results also provide insights regarding common energetic and neuromuscular constraints on sound production, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of producing these sounds.

"Acoustic signals are used to transfer information among species that is required for survival, growth and reproduction," Gillooly said. "This work suggests that this information exchange is ultimately governed by the rate at which an animal takes up and uses energy."

Animal communication is a long-studied area of biology, going back at least to the days of Aristotle. But generally the studies were species-specific, made in the context of courting calls or parental care of a certain type of animal -- nothing to relate an animal call across a variety of species.

"From my perspective this is one of the first true attempts to provide a general theoretical framework for acoustic communication," said Alexander G. Ophir, Ph.D., an assistant professor of zoology at Oklahoma State, who began the painstaking process of compiling data on animal calls in hundreds of different species while a postdoctoral student at UF. "This seems to provide unifying principles for acoustic communication that can be applied to virtually all species. In terms of producing sounds, we use vocal cords, but other mechanisms of sound production exist, such as insects that rub their legs together. Until now, these sounds have been treated differently. But by providing a general mathematical framework -- a baseline -- we have a reference point to compare those differences.

"So if we say one animal's call is loud, we can provide a predictive reference point to say whether it is truly loud when compared with other animal sounds," he said.

That common reference point can even predict what animals long extinct -- think of Tyrannosaurus rex of "Jurassic Park" fame -- may have truly sounded like.

"These findings say if you give me information about an animal of a certain body size and the mechanisms it uses to make sounds, I can give you a rough idea of what it sounds like," said Jeffrey Podos, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who did not participate in the study. "It allows us to imagine where the evolution of acoustic signals might go, and where it might have come from. Further study will probably put these principles in a more explicit evolutionary framework, but this is an interesting idea and presented with such a broad view. I can't think of anyone in at least 30 years who has tied together data from such a diversity of species. These authors are really trying to see the forest instead of the trees."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "From crickets to whales, animal calls have something in common." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100105195246.htm>.
University of Florida. (2010, January 6). From crickets to whales, animal calls have something in common. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100105195246.htm
University of Florida. "From crickets to whales, animal calls have something in common." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100105195246.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins