BIOL 507 (Fall)

Animal Communication

(Offered in 2019-2020)

J. Sakata (Coordinator) N4/8 (514) 398-3636
K. Onishi
(514) 398-1725
3 credits (3-0-6)
Students should have taken or be currently enrolled in a course in introductory neurobiology (e.g. BIOL 306 or NEUR 310 or NSCI 200 or NSCI 201 or PHGY 311) and a course in Behavioural Ecology (e.g. BIOL 307). Since all corequisites may not be offered in the same term, students are advised that they may have to plan their schedules so that they register in these courses in the term prior to BIOL 507. Or students may enroll with the permission of instructor. Enrolment is limited.
This course provides an introduction to communication between animals. We will discuss the basic setup of communication systems, but also take a close look at the physical and historical constraints shaping the production and reception of communication signals. The course will cover the relevant physics of communication as well as sensory physiology and the physiology of signal production. Examples will be drawn from all major communication channels. Specifically, we will study acoustic, vibrational, visual, chemical, and electrical communication in a variety of animals (including humans) and contexts (courtship, aggression, predator evasion). Emphasis will be laid on the evolution of communication systems, on the different interests of sender and receiver (game-theoretic approaches), and on mechanisms optimizing information transfer. Discussion will include the neural systems underlying human language and the relationship between human language and communication systems of other animals.
The lectures will use materials from Bradbury and Vehrencamp (2011) Principles of Animal Communication. Sinauer, Sunderland, MA and from Searcy and Nowicki (2005) The Evolution of Animal Communication. Princeton Universtiy Press, Princeton, NJ. These books are recommended but not required.  Additional material from the research literature will be made available through myCourses.
A set of lectures will introduce basic aspects of animal communication and its evolution. Each student will present an original research article from the recent literature and will write a review paper on a current topic in animal communication research.

Discussion contributions, assignments on myCourses related to articles covered in student presentations, presentation of original research article, term paper ).

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information).

Last update: April 15, 2019