Synopsis

Animals that use social signals to communicate with one another often differ in the way those social signals appear among different species. When the function of social signals is the same among those species, the question remains as to why different species should evolve signals with different designs. A key hypothesis behind much of the communicative diversity we see in the natural world is species recognition: different species evolve species-typical signal designs to ensure communication is directed at the proper individual – conspecifics – otherwise animals waste time and energy attempting to communicate with individuals from the wrong species.

Aims

In this project, the honours student will use a massive library of video footage of many different lizards performing territorial visual displays to test whether signals differ in their design primarily in response to species recognition. This project is ideal for any student wishing to have the flexibility of a lab based project, while also learning skills in quantifying animal movement and methods of measuring complexity.

Student Benefits

  • A flexible lab based project
  • Learn the methods of studying animal motion and other behaviour
  • Learn how to read and interpret phylogenies
  • Discover the relevance of understanding animal communication for speciation and evolution
  • Discover how easy to use methods can be used to uncover past evolutionary history from present-day observations