Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Breed’s General Principles of Communicatory Modes

Michael D. Breed at www.animalbehavioronline.com has a great table on different modes of communication that is worth citing in its entirety.
General Principles of Communicatory Modes

1. Visual signals are favored when ambient light is present and objects (such as vegetation) do not block transmission. Visual signals reach their destination quickly. A few animals, such a fireflies, produce their own light for visual signals and do not need ambient light to illuminate a visual display.

  1. Chemical signals work well in dark environments, when directional information is unimportant, or when there are consistent wind or water currents. Odors may persist, confusing receivers or allowing predators and parasites to find the sender. Chemical signals move slowly, relative to visual or auditory signals.

  2. Auditory signals also are appropriate in the dark or in thickly vegetated habitats. Auditory signals typically require more energy to produce than other modalities. Low pitched signals carry well, making them suitable for territorial and other long-distance calls. Higher-pitched signals are employed in echolocation systems (when an animal communicates with itself, this is called autocommunication). The short wavelength of high pitched signals causes them to reflect from small objects.

  3. Touching (tactile signals) can be very efficient when animals are close together, and do not require ambient conditions such as light or air currents. Their major limitation is the requirement of proximity; they are ineffective for distant communication

  4. .Electrical signals seem to be limited to fish swimming in muddy waters.

Also check out Breed’s

Detailed Table of Communicative Modes