Adjustments to facilitate communication in noisy environments

Estefania Velilla, Wouter Halfwerk

    Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionaryAcademicpeer-review


    Animals communicate with sounds, odors and smells to attract mates, defend territories or warn against predators. Communication signals thus provide vital functions for reproduction and survival, yet are often used in environments with high or fluctuating levels of noise. Natural conditions, such as a waterfall, heavy rains or winds can create high levels of acoustic, visual and vibratory noise, and have shaped animal communication systems during their evolutionary history. Nowadays, human activities also create stimuli such as the sound made by transportation vehicles, or light emitted at night by streetlamps that force animals to adapt their signaling behavior. In this article we review the various ways in which animals are affected by noise in their living environment and outline how they can cope with it. We distinguish between the effects of noise on the receiver, as well as the producer of communication signals in different perceptual systems, such as the acoustical, visual and chemical domain. We close-off by reviewing some evidence that noise, as well as the signals and cues it can affect, is not restricted to a single modality, but that animals often combine information across the senses. We finish by providing some interesting avenues for studies on multimodal communication and multisensory pollution in animal research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Animal Behavior
    EditorsJae Chun Choe
    Number of pages8
    ISBN (Electronic)9780128132517
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Animal communication
    • Cross-modal processes
    • Masking interference
    • Noise-adjustment
    • Signaling


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