Lecture 2 - Animal talk

From the 1985 lecture programme:

All animals depend on communication, at least for reproduction and often for a complex social life. But the methods they use are often different because their sense organs work in a variety of often surprising ways.

Some use 'sounds' and ’colours’ that we cannot hear or see. Some signals that we can detect are coded in unfamiliar ways so that the messages are indecipherable unless we use special instruments. Many animals use their sense of smell to a much greater extent and in more subtle ways than we can. Even less imaginable is the world of some fishes that use ‘touch at a distance’ or may emit weak electrical signals underwater and detect them by sense organs in their skin.

Nor do animals communicate only with their own kind. Some must ensure that their signals do not betray them to predators, while venomous species boldly advertise so that they are not attacked by mistake. Other messages are very misleading, ranging from harmless fibs to downright black lies. Even plants may communicate with animals and sometimes use deceptions too. Finally, Man often communicates with his domestic beasts and achieves some of the finest examples of cooperation between species.






David Pye



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