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Rhythm interaction in animal groups: selective attention in communication networks

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Vivek Nityananda



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Animals communicating interactively with conspecifics often time their broadcasts to avoid overlapping interference, to emit leading, as opposed to following, signals or to synchronize their signalling rhythms. Each of these adjustments becomes more difficult as the number of interactants increases beyond a pair. Among acoustic species, insects and anurans generally deal with the problem of group signalling by means of 'selective attention' in which they focus on several close or conspicuous neighbours and ignore the rest. In these animals, where signalling and receiving are often dictated by sex, the process of selective attention in signallers may have a parallel counterpart in receivers, which also focus on close neighbours. In birds and mammals, local groups tend to be extended families or clans, and group signalling may entail complex timing mechanisms that allow for attention to all individuals. In general, the mechanisms that allow animals to communicate in groups appear to be fully interwoven with the basic process of rhythmic signalling. This article is part of the theme issue 'Synchrony and rhythm interaction: from the brain to behavioural ecology'.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Greenfield MD, Aihara I, Amichay G, Anichini M, Nityananda V

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences

Year: 2021

Volume: 376

Issue: 1835

Print publication date: 11/10/2021

Online publication date: 23/08/2021

Acceptance date: 15/02/2021

ISSN (print): 0962-8436

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970

Publisher: Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0338

PubMed id: 34420386