Many of our Wonder Friends have WONDERed about how animals communicate. We thought that was a great question. So we conducted a focus group with a large sample of the animal population of Wonderopolis, and here’s what we learned:
- 98% of the animals in Wonderopolis use a smartphone as their primary means of communication.
- Only 2% of the animals in Wonderopolis still use a land line telephone.
- Over 75% of the animals in Wonderopolis prefer to send text messages instead of talking on the phone.
Of course, the animals in Wonderopolis tend to be a bit more advanced than the animals you might encounter on a day-to-day basis. So let’s take a closer look at how some of the animals on Earth communicate.
If you’ve ever owned a dog or a cat, you know very well that animals can communicate. They understand basic commands that you give them. Most pets fully understand what you mean when you say the word “treat.”
Likewise, pets can clearly communicate some basic messages to you. When they’re hungry or thirsty, they will let you know. A scratch on the door might mean “I need to potty.” A couple of licks might mean “I’m happy to see you” when you get home from school.
Since we know that animals can communicate, let’s explore the many interesting ways different species use to communicate. Just because they don’t speak the same language you do doesn’t mean that animals don’t use their voices, though.
Many different types of animals use a range of sounds to communicate. Has your dog ever barked to be let out of the house? Perhaps your cat has meowed when she’s hungry? All you have to do is spend some time along in nature and keep your ears open to hear the wide variety of communication going on around you.
Whales sing, wolves howl, birds tweet and chirp, and frogs croak. Although you probably can’t tell what they’re saying, they’re certainly communicating with each other and the world around them.
Sounds aren’t the only way animals communicate. Like human beings, they can convey messages in all sorts of nonverbal ways. For example, the wag of a dog’s tail can indicate a wide variety of emotions and messages. Here are some other interesting examples of nonverbal communication among animals:
- Peacocks can fan their feathers in an impressive visual display intended to communicate a territorial warning.
- Many different types of animals mark their territories with their scent as a clear to others to stay away.
- A dolphin may slap its tail on the water to get the attention of others in the area.
- Bees tell other bees when they’ve found nectar by “dancing” when they return to the hive.
- Deer flick their tails to warn other deer following them of possible dangers ahead.
Have you ever seen a dog communicate with a cat to let it know that it’s not wanted in its territory? Perhaps you’ve even been the target of a mother bird’s communication if you’ve accidentally stepped to close to her nest!
Scientists have observed many different types of species communicating with each other in a variety of ways. One interesting example is the communication between spiny-tailed iguanas and paradise flycatchers in Madagascar. Even though the iguanas don’t communicate vocally, they have developed well-tuned ears, so that they can hear the warning calls of the paradise flycatcher. This helps both species avoid being hunted by a common enemy: the raptors that patrol the skies above them!