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Functionally Referential Communication in Mammals: The Past, Present and the Future


Townsend, Simon W; Manser, Marta B (2013). Functionally Referential Communication in Mammals: The Past, Present and the Future. Ethology, 119(1):1-11.

Abstract

Whether animal vocalizations have the potential to communicate information regarding ongoing external events or objects has received considerable attention over the last four decades. Such ‘functionally referential signals’ (Macedonia & Evans 1993) have been shown to occur in a range of mammals and bird species and as a consequence have helped us understand the complexities that underlie animal communication, particularly how animals process and perceive their socio-ecological worlds. Here, we review the existing evidence for functionally referential signals in mammals according to the framework put forward in the seminal Macedonia and Evans review paper. Furthermore, we elucidate the ambiguities regarding the functionally referential framework that have become obvious over the last years. Finally, we highlight new potential areas for investigation within referential signalling. We conclude the functionally referential framework is still informative when interpreting the meaning of animal vocalizations but, based on emerging research, requires further integration with other approaches investigating animal vocal complexity to broaden its applicability.

Whether animal vocalizations have the potential to communicate information regarding ongoing external events or objects has received considerable attention over the last four decades. Such ‘functionally referential signals’ (Macedonia & Evans 1993) have been shown to occur in a range of mammals and bird species and as a consequence have helped us understand the complexities that underlie animal communication, particularly how animals process and perceive their socio-ecological worlds. Here, we review the existing evidence for functionally referential signals in mammals according to the framework put forward in the seminal Macedonia and Evans review paper. Furthermore, we elucidate the ambiguities regarding the functionally referential framework that have become obvious over the last years. Finally, we highlight new potential areas for investigation within referential signalling. We conclude the functionally referential framework is still informative when interpreting the meaning of animal vocalizations but, based on emerging research, requires further integration with other approaches investigating animal vocal complexity to broaden its applicability.

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24 citations in Web of Science®
27 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Contributors:Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:04 Dec 2013 15:39
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:12
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0179-1613
Funders:University of Zurich
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/eth.12015
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-85783

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