5 Fascinating Animal Communication Systems

We might have emails and text messaging, but these animals have more creative ways of communicating with each other.

Have you ever danced to impress someone? Have you ever cast a vote? Are you any good at giving the evil eye? These five animals are better than you at all those things, and you’re about to find out why. Because believe it or not, animals are quite the communicators. These crazy creatures are way past snail mail, and one is even ahead of our time! So pay close attention to the coolest animal communicators.

The Sperm Whale:

Did you know that whales have names? You might be thinking of Shamu or Willy, but really, whale speak goes deeper than theme parks, movies, or incomprehensible singing. Scientists researching sperm whales in the Caribbean found that their calls were unique to that region.

So, just like people on land, at sea, Caribbean whales have their own accent! They also make calls that are exclusive to their family, and they even have their own individual names! Researchers studied short sequences of clicking sounds that whales made, and found upon closer analysis, that each sequence, or coda, as they’re called, was an individual call sign for each whale in their study. It’s not often you befriend a whale, but now and then, you might just click!

The Bison:

When we think elections, donkeys, and elephants might come to mind. But it turns out that bison may be the most democratic of animals. When deciding on where to graze next, members of the herd will orient themselves towards the direction they’d like to go. There are a few potential leaders in the group, and they will often commit to a direction, moving beyond the herd.

Whoever the majority of the group follows, becomes the leader, and they decide where the herd will graze next. Most of the time, herd leaders are females. They’re more likely to find the best grazing spots because they need more nutrients for gestation and lactation.

The Jackdaw:

The jackdaw looks a lot like a crow or a raven, except for one sharp detail that makes all the difference. Their electric blue eyes stand out against their dark, black feathers, and for a good reason. Research indicates that the jackdaw is the first bird species to communicate with its eyes. Jackdaws make their homes in tree trunk hollows, but they’re not able to make these hollows themselves.

That means that real estate in the jackdaw neighborhood is competitive, so jackdaws use their piercing eyes to stare down and scare away any potential squatters.

The Blue-Capped Cordon Bleu:
You might’ve thought that penguins are the best dancers, but how ’bout a bird that can dance 200 steps a minute? The blue-capped cordon bleu bobs, dances, and sings to attract a mate. While males tend to be more energetic in their movements, females will respond to their suitor’s moves with a dance of their own.

Since these birds are monogamous, they tend to be picky about their mates, meaning their dancing skills have got to be on point. The blue-capped cordon bleu dances so quickly that its movements are impossible to see with the naked eye. The longer it dances, the healthier it appears to be, and the more likely that it will succeed in attracting a mate.

The Mantis Shrimp:

The mantis shrimp is known to pack a killer punch, but it also has the most extraordinary eyes in the animal kingdom – sorry jackdaw. These shrimp use their eyes to respect each other’s personal space, but not through a staring match. Human eyes generally have three photoreceptors in their retinas, allowing them to detect colors on a range of red, blue and green light.

Mantis shrimp have about 12 to 16 photoreceptors in their eyes. And yet, they’re worse than most animals at discriminating between colors! But they can see ultraviolet, and they’re the only animals that can detect circularly polarised light.

But why? The research on mantis shrimp eyes is sparse, but being colorful creatures themselves, some studies suggest that mantis shrimp flash different color patches on their shells to other mantis shrimp. These patterns can either be aggressive or inviting, depending on their intentions, but you would have to have their eyes to know the difference.

While we humans might think we’ve mastered the art of communication, it turns out, we can still learn a thing or two from Earth’s crazy creatures. There’s speculation that research into how a mantis shrimp sees might one day be used to detect cancerous cells since they reflect light differently than healthy cells do.