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Living in a noisy world: indirect effects of noise on animal communication

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Noise is a ubiquitous feature in natural as well as in urban habitats. The presence of noise can have multiple direct and indirect effects on communication. Noise can directly mask signals leading to reduced detection and recognition. Noise also affects internal physiological processes which can influence attention and decision rules and, thus, indirectly affect communication. Also community effects of noise leading to lower densities or different community composition with respect to copying style or personality will affect communication through different communication distances and different daily behavioural routines. All these direct and indirect effects of noise on communication have been well documented but often are treated separately. This review focusses on some of the indirect effects of noise on animal communication, considering spatial responses, attentional effects and differential effects of noise depending on an animal’s characteristics, its personality. It evaluates how noise can indirectly influence communication and, thus, social network structure and processes of sexual and natural selection.

Affiliations: 1: Wageningen University, Department of Animal Sciences, Behavioural Ecology Group, De Elst 1, 6708 WD Wageningen, The Netherlands


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