Home :: Chapter 13 :: Web Topic 13.2

Web Topic 13.2
Examples of Social Integration Signals


Social integration signals include a wide range of visual, acoustic, chemical, and tactile signals. Some of the signals are complex and variable in structure so that they can encode individual identity, an important requirement for group-living species with repeated interactions among group members. These signals also serve specific functions, such as synchronizing parental care behaviors in biparental species, facilitating parent and offspring communication, and coordinating group movements. In this Web Topics unit we provide rich media examples of identity signals, pair integration signals, parent–offspring signals, and group integration signals, following the outline in the main text.

Identity signals

Three examples of visual identity signals were illustrated in Figure 13.5. There are of course many more examples of patterns and colors that have evolved to be especially variable between individuals to encode individual distinctiveness. The interested reader should see the article on this topic by Tibbetts and Dale (2007). Individual chemical signals, or signature odors, can only be illustrated with gas chromatograph tracings showing the different components and proportions of these multi-chemical blends (see Clapperton and1988; Buesching et al. 2002; Smith 2006). Similarly, electric fish also show very slight but meaningful individual differences in electric organ discharge waveforms (McGregor and Westby 1992). Here we focus on acoustic signature signals for a few social species in which individual identity is important. We show the spectrograms of calls from several different individuals. Click on the species name to see an audio–visual movie of the call series.

Pair integration signals

Here are some examples of pair integration signals in a variety of monogamous species, ranging from duets and other mutual displays to greeting ceremonies, courtship feeding, allopreening, and other tactile signals. Most of these examples are avian species. The majority of birds have a monogamous mating system, associated with pair bonds that last at least the duration of a breeding cycle and with biparental care of offspring. Pair bonds are maintained for multiple years in sea birds, in which effective communication and coordination of parental activities are crucial for successful reproduction and improve as the pair gains breeding experience.

Mutual displays

A pair of duetting magpie-larks, showing the how close together the birds often are when duetting, and the coordinated and synchronized visual display that accompanies the acoustic display. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Hall.)

Courtship feeding: a common behavior in many species during the period of pair bond formation and courtship, in which the female may give a begging display much like the juvenile begging display and the male then feeds her. This behavior is not only a male mate attraction and copulation solicitation signal, but it also provides additional nutrition to the egg-laying female.

Mammalian examples

Parent-offspring integration signals

Examples of offspring begging signals: Here we show the offspring begging signals in a variety of species, primarily avian. In some species, adults bring a single item that can be given only to one offspring in a brood at a time; often the largest or closest chick is fed. Competition among chicks can be strong in such species. In other species, the adults bring a large amount of food, either multiple items or a semi-digested bolus that can be given to several or all of the young during a single provisioning trip. Note how in these species the parent attempts to feed each offspring.

Parental directive signals

Group integration signals

Here are some examples of group integration signals, divided into categories of appeasement signals and group coordination signals.

Appeasement signals

Group coordination signals

Literature cited

Buesching, C.D., J.S. Waterhouse and D.W. Macdonald. 2002. Gas-chromatographic analyses of the subcaudal gland secretion of the European badger (Meles meles) Part II: Time-related variation in the individual-specific composition. Journal of Chemical Ecology 28: 57–69.

Clapperton, B.K., E.O. Minot and D.R. Crump. 1988. An olfactory recognition system in the ferret Mustela furo L (Carnivora, Mustelidae). Animal Behaviour 36: 541–553.

Hall, M.L. and R.D. Magrath. 2007. Temporal coordination signals coalition quality. Current Biology 17: R406–R407.

Hall, M.L. and A. Peters. 2008. Coordination between the sexes for territorial defence in a duetting fairy-wren. Animal Behaviour 76: 65–73.

Hall, M.L. and A. Peters. 2009. Do male paternity guards ensure female fidelity in a duetting fairy-wren? Behavioral Ecology 20: 222–228.

Kondo, N., E.I. Izawa and S. Watanabe. 2010. Perceptual mechanism for vocal individual recognition in jungle crows (Corvus macrorhynchos): contact call signature and discrimination. Behaviour 147: 1051–1072.

Krebs, E.A. 1999. Last but not least: nestling growth and survival in asynchronously hatching crimson rosellas. Journal of Animal Ecology 68: 266–281.

Krebs, E.A. and D.A. Putland. 2004. Chic chicks: the evolution of chick ornamentation in rails. Behavioral Ecology 15: 946–951.

Lyon, B.E., J.M. Eadie and L.D. Hamilton. 1994. Parental choice selects for ornamental plumage in American coot chicks. Nature 371: 240–243.

Mann, N.I., K.A. Dingess, F.K. Barker, J.A. Graves and P.J.B. Slater. 2009. A comparative study of song form and duetting in neotropical Thryothorus wrens. Behaviour 146: 1–43.

McGregor, P.K. and G.W.M. Westby. 1992. Discrimination of individually characteristic electric organ discharges by a weakly electric fish. Animal Behaviour 43: 977–986.

Rangel, J. and T.D. Seeley. 2008. The signals initiating the mass exodus of a honeybee swarm from its nest. Animal Behaviour 76: 1943–1952.

Rangel, J., S.R. Griffin and T.D. Seeley. 2010. An oligarchy of nest-site scouts triggers a honeybee swarm's departure from the hive. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 64: 979–987.

Rittschof, C.C. and T.D. Seeley. 2008. The buzz-run: how honeybees signal “Time to go!” Animal Behaviour 75: 189–197.

Sayigh, L.S., H.C. Esch, R.S. Wells and V.M. Janik. 2007. Facts about signature whistles of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus. Animal Behaviour 74: 1631–1642.

Sayigh, L.S. and V.M. Janik. 2010. Dolphin signature whistles. In Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, Vol. 1 (Breed, M.D. and J. Moore, eds.). Oxford: Academic Press. pp. 553–561.

Shizuka, D. and B.E. Lyon. 2010. Coots use hatch order to learn to recognize and reject conspecific brood parasitic chicks. Nature 463: 223–U108.

Smith, T. 2006. Individual olfactory signatures in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). American Journal of Primatology 68: 585–604.

Tibbetts, E.A. and J. Dale. 2007. Individual recognition: it is good to be different. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22: 529–537.

Volodina, E.V., I.A. Volodin, I.V. Isaeva and C. Unck. 2006. Biphonation may function to enhance individual recognition in the dhole, Cuon alpinus. Ethology 112: 815–825.

Wiper, S.M. and S. Semple. 2007. The function of teeth chattering in male Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus). American Journal of Primatology 69: 1179–1188.