Linking signal fidelity and the efficiency costs of communication

S. Hackett, H. M. Schaefer, G. D. Ruxton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The handicap principle has been the overarching framework to explain the evolution and maintenance of communication. Yet, it is becoming apparent that strategic costs of signalling are not the only mechanism maintaining signal honesty. Rather, the fidelity of detecting signals can itself be strongly selected. Specifically, we argue that the fidelity of many signals will be constrained by the investment in signal generation and reception by the signaller and perceiver, respectively. Here, we model how investments in signal fidelity influence the emergence and stability of communication using a simple theoretical framework. The predictions of the model indicate that high-cost communication can be stable whereas low-cost intermediates are generally selected against. This dichotomy suggests that the most parsimonious route to the evolution of communication is for initial investment in communicative traits to be driven by noncommunicative functions. Such cues can appeal to pre-existing perceptual biases and thereby stimulate signal evolution. We predict that signal evolution will vary between systems in ways that can be linked to the economics of communication to the two parties involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1797-1810
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume27
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014

Keywords

  • costly signals
  • handicap signals
  • signal honesty
  • signalling
  • POECILIA-RETICULATA
  • ANIMAL SIGNALS
  • COLOR PATTERNS
  • HANDICAPS
  • EVOLUTION
  • DISPLAYS
  • BIRDS

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