DK Nature: Communication
Animals communicate with their own kind or other species to coordinate the search for food, attract mates, bring up young, or escape from danger. Various species send signals using sight, sounds, body language, touch, scent, complex chemicals, or a combination of all of these.
Close-range visual signals are used to send a variety of messages, such as “Food is near” or “Keep away!” Birds from peacocks to robins attract mates using bright colors. Fireflies do the same with light. The white flash of a fleeing rabbit’s tail warns others of danger.
Sound signals carry over considerable distances and give information immediately. Songbirds and howler monkeys call to establish territories. Whales, frogs, and crickets sing to attract a mate. Vervet monkeys warn others of different enemies by using different sounds.
When animals communicate with their enemies, their messages are not always truthful. Dogs, cats, and other animals raise their hackles, arch their backs, or puff themselves up to look bigger. Opossums play dead to fool their enemies. Some animals mimic (copy) the appearance of dangerous creatures.
Animals use scent signals called pheromones to affect the behavior of others. These complex chemicals, which include hormones, are most often transferred by air. Female moths release pheromones to attract males. In ant, bee, and termite colonies, the queen releases pheromones to convey all sorts of messages to the rest of the colony.