Interspecies Communication: Can Animals Communicate With Others?
Do you think that communication is an exclusively human ability? If you've got a pet at home and you take a moment to mull over this question, you'll surely change your mind. Pets are capable of communicating their emotions and requirements to their owners, often making you think that the only thing they're missing is the ability to talk.
Animals communicate non-verbally, but this doesn't mean that they don't communicate. Not only can they communicate between their peers: they are also capable of communicating with us human beings, overcoming any barriers between species. But can animals actually communicate with other species? How do they do it? How can you tell what it is that they want to get across?
Stay with us at AnimalWised and discover all about interspecies communication!
What does "interspecies communication" mean?
"Interspecies communication" cannot be confused with the study of animal behavior, which aims to decipher the meaning of animal body language, among other things. That is called "ethology".
What we're discussing is something quite different: the ability of living species to communicate with others, not necessarily through words or specific messages, but through the transfer of emotions, sounds, physical sensations, shapes and images. This happens with animals, but also with plants and fungi, as they also have their ways of sharing information.
This ability has helped all species survive and evolve. Interspecies communication - sharing information - is what allows mutualism, a relationship in which two individuals from different species benefit from the activities of the other. This is not the same as parasitism, as in that case one species gets the benefits while the other loses them.
For example, the well-known clownfish lives in anemones. The clownfish defends its territory - the anemone - from would-be predators, while the stings of the anemone protect the clownfish from animals who would eat it.
Interspecies communitation can be used to fool the other species. Some species are very good at mimicry, having evolved shapes, calls and patterns that allow them to disguise themselves as other, more dangerous species or to camouflage in the environment. This sends information to the predator species, but it is incorrect.
Is interspecies communication real?
There are scientific theories and arguments that support interspecies communication as a reality. Some of them have been disregarded by the scientific community: for instance, Schumann resonances have been said to guide communication through electromagnetic waves, while Rupert Sheldrake holds the hypothesis of morphic resonance. However, most science hold that these are inconceivable.
We live in an anthropocentric culture, meaning that human beings are treated as the centre of worldly existence and as a clear superior species. This means that our society tends to "objectify" animals, using them for our gain and treating them with no respect or dignity, while at the same time we treat our pets almost as children, projecting all sorts of human qualities onto them.
Therefore, scientists find that our biases shape the outcome - and even the beginning - of all research into interspecies communication. For some, it is simply impossible and we're reading too much into it. For others, interspecies communication is taken for granted, and no attention is paid to its subtleties.
For instance, centuries ago any proclamation that animals are self-aware would have been considered bizarre. Nowadays, under proven scientific parameters, it is accepted that animals such as chimpanzees, bottlenose dolphins, bonobos, elephants, orcas, gorillas, magpies and dogs are indeed self-aware to some extent. As for cats, scientists haven't made up their minds yet.
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