Origin of Communication Behavior

The evolutionary origin of communication behavior is usually considered solely as a question of how signals originate, that is, how they evolved to become specialized to carry information. Two evolutionary origins for signals have been suggested; they differ in 'who benefits from the information in the signal'. If both signaler and receiver benefit from the communication, it is likely that signals originate as a consequence of selection for increasing efficiency of information transfer. This is usually termed ritualization, and it generates a signal by the simplification, exaggeration, repetition, and increased stereotypy of the signal precursor. Signal precursors are behaviors that incidentally contain some relevant information such as intention movements, displacement activities, and auto-nomic responses. A second evolutionary route for the origin of signals is usually referred to as sensory exploitation. Signals are selected to exploit 'preexisting sensory biases' built into receivers. For example, male spiders use signals for mate attraction that stimulate females' prey-detection receptors.

If the evolutionary origin of communication is considered in a wider network context, a third possibility emerges. Information networks include communication networks (in which information transfer occurs via signals as described above), but also networks of information based on potential signal precursors. Semiochemicals (e.g., alarm pheromones) are examples of such potential signal precursors and receivers gathering information from them are said to be spying. Chemical signals could evolve from semiochemicals through spying (as production of the semiochemical by the signaler becomes specialized). In an analogous manner, communication networks could evolve from spying networks, reversing the presumed order of communication appearing before eavesdropping.

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