Long-Range Acoustic Communication in Anurans: An Integrated and Evolutionary Approach

  • M. J. Littlejohn


Acoustic communication constitutes an important and conspicuous part of the breeding biology of most anurans: in the establishment and maintenance of territories by males, in facilitating the attraction of conspecific mates to males, in courtship, and in the identification of sex and reproductive state. The aim of this review is to examine the long-range acoustic communication system of anurans through an integrated and evolutionary approach, and to consider the constraints on the system in the context of reproduction. A useful framework on which to build such an approach is provided by the model of a communication system initially developed by Shannon and Weaver (1949), and applied to biological systems by Cherry (1957), Johnston (1976), Moles (1963) and others. This biocommunication system consists of four main elements: the common repertoire (set of signs), the source (emitter or transmitter),the communication channel and associated noise, and the destination or receiver (Fig. 1). Each functional subsystem, emitter complex and receiver complex, is normally contained within the structure of one individual. A message is selected from the common repertoire, encoded and introduced into the channel as a signal. Perturbations of the channel (noise) tend to reduce the intelligence of the signal (information content), which is subsequently accepted by the receiver, decoded and compared with the contents of its repertoire. The result is an output that completes the bio-communicative sequence. The incorporation of redundancy into the message, through synonymy or repetition, helps to overcome the problem of a noisy channel, but at the expense of energy, time and transmission rate.


Carrier Frequency Acoustic Signal Tympanic Membrane Sound Pressure Level Tree Frog 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. J. Littlejohn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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