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Vibrational Communication in Animals

Vibrational Communication in Animals

Peggy S. M. Hill

ISBN 9780674027985

Publication date: 05/30/2008

In creatures as different as crickets and scorpions, mole rats and elephants, there exists an overlooked channel of communication: signals transmitted as vibrations through a solid substrate. Peggy Hill summarizes a generation of groundbreaking work by scientists around the world on this long understudied form of animal communication.

Beginning in the 1970s, Hill explains, powerful computers and listening devices allowed scientists to record and interpret vibrational signals. Whether the medium is the sunbaked savannah or the stem of a plant, vibrations can be passed along from an animal to a potential mate, or intercepted by a predator on the prowl. Vibration appears to be an ancient means of communication, widespread in both invertebrate and vertebrate taxa. Hill synthesizes in this book a flowering of research, field studies documenting vibrational signals in the wild, and the laboratory experiments that answered such questions as what adaptations allowed animals to send and receive signals, how they use signals in different contexts, and how vibration as a channel might have evolved.

Vibrational Communication in Animals promises to become a foundational text for the next generation of researchers putting an ear to the ground.


  • Finally, a cohesive volume that illustrates the depth and breadth of research devoted to vibrational communication historically and as a growing field of study. This ambitious work is a remarkable synthesis of the field incorporating the physics of propagation, anatomical mechanisms of vibration transmission and detection as well as the diversity of uses by all taxa yet known to exploit vibrations as signals. The layout and very accessible prose make light reading out of a subject that in many aspects had been considered intractable. Vibrational Communication in Animals will no doubt inspire further thoughts and motivate more minds to focus on this intriguing area of science where there is so much more to discover.

    —Caitlin O'Connell, Stanford University and author of The Elephant's Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa


  • Peggy S. M. Hill is Associate Professor of Biological Science, University of Tulsa.

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 0-3/4 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press