Cover image for Songs, roars, and rituals : communication in birds, mammals, and other animals
Songs, roars, and rituals : communication in birds, mammals, and other animals
Rogers, Lesley J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
x, 207 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Rev. ed. of: Not only roars and rituals. 1998.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL776 .R64 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From the calling macaw and the roaring lion to the dancing lyrebird, animals all around us can be heard and seen communicating with each other and, occasionally, with us. Why they do so, what their utterances mean, and how much we know about them are the subject of Songs, Roars, and Rituals. This is a concise, yet comprehensive, introduction to the complexities of communication in animals.Rogers and Kaplan take us on an exciting journey through communication in the animal world, offering insights on how animals communicate by sight, sound, smell, touch, and even electrical signaling. They explore a wide variety of communication patterns in many species of mammals and birds and discuss in detail how communication signals evolved, how they are learned, and what song and mimicry may mean.An up-to-date account of the science of animal communication, this book also considers modern concepts (such as that of deceptive communication) and modern controversies, primarily those surrounding the evolution of human language and the use of symbolic language by apes. It concludes with a thought-provoking look at the future of communication between humans and animals.

Author Notes

Lesley J. Rogers and Gisela Kaplan are both full professors at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

"Communication requires one individual to send a signal of some description and another individual to receive that signal and interpret its meaning." This simple definition appears early in the first chapter of this study of communication in animals and provides the foundation for the remainder of the text. Rogers and Kaplan (The Orangutans [BKL Je 1 & 15 00]) offer a wellwritten survey of what is known about communication in animals (mostly birds and mammals) in eight concise chapters. Simple behaviors, such as producing alarm calls to warn of predators, are explained in terms of what function the individual signals perform. This then leads the reader to understanding more complex communicative behaviors, such as "dishonest" signaling (bluffing). An interesting chapter explores the question of whether signaling is intentional or unintentional. Do animals signal unintentionally because of their emotional reaction to a situation, or are they sending specific information in specific circumstances? As a primer to an exciting field of animal behavior, this eminently readable account succeeds in thoroughly engaging the reader and is therefore recommended. --Nancy Bent

Publisher's Weekly Review

From the cat's meow to the bowerbird's bright-blue nest, animals constantly and variously exchange information. Avians, primates, seals, whales, even insects and lizards send signals in order to find and keep their mates; to deceive predators, or to warn them away; to mark their territories; to train their young; and to pass on useful information. Neurobiologist Rogers (Minds of Their Own) and social scientist Kaplan (also the author of books on Australian feminism) have written an accessible, consistently absorbing and scientifically scrupulous survey of how animals send signals and of what evolutionary theory tells us about how they came to do so. The authors first explain how biologists distinguish between intentional signaling and other behaviors, such as "intention movements" (e.g., a bird flapping its wings before takeoff). Bird songs have inspired their own flock of specialized research; much of this volume covers warblers' warbles, lyrebirds' melodies and finches' trills. We learn why certain acoustic properties suit certain calls (staccato chirps, for example, make birds easier to locate), and we find out how various species teach their young their own calls, signs and songsÄsome calls are largely "learned," others seem to be genetically programmed in much more detail. Mammal calls have proven harder to study, but Rogers and Kaplan explain what we do know. A concluding chapter describes how humans communicate with animals: pet owners and tribal hunter-gatherers both get sympathetic attention. An earlier version of this work was published in England in 1998 as Not Only Roars and Rituals; this revised American edition follows the May publication of the authors' other collaborative survey, The Orangutans (Forecasts, May 22). 8 halftones, 14 line illus. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The authors (behavioral sciences, Univ. of New England, Australia) focus on communication among animals, with chapters on its definition, evolution, use, how it is learned, whether it is intentional, signaling and sensory perception, and human-animal contacts. This rather advanced look at animal behavior is authoritative and well documented but suffers from a pedantic, academic style that makes for laborious reading. Bland phrases such as it is important, invites further comment, we have said that, and research on any aspect of are legion. Nevertheless, because it effectively synthesizes available information, as evidenced by the extensive bibliography, this book is an important contribution to the study of animal behavior and ethologyDa field of growing interest, notable for such Nobel laureates and iluminaries as Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and E.O. Wilson. Therefore, it is recommended for academic and larger public libraries, but with reservations as to its writing style.DHenry T. Armistead, Free Lib. of Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Rogers (neuroscience) and Kaplan (animal behavior), both researchers at the University of New England in Australia, have written an introductory work that sets the table for a range of important topics: signaling and its importance, communication in birds and mammals, the ontogeny of communication, the evolution of communication, and animal-human contacts. They let the details be filled in by the 14 pages of current scientific literature citations. The authors, throughout, make a strong case for the ethical treatment of animals, using communication as a property humans share that blurs the line between human superiority and animals' subordinate status. There are a modest number of figures: a few photos, all black and white; some sonographs and illustrations. The prose in its eight chapters is not crackling, more like a well-organized lecture, but it is, on balance, effective. A welcome addition to college, university, and public libraries. General readers; undergraduates through faculty. H. N. Cunningham Jr.; emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, Behrend College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. IX
1 What is Communication?p. 1
2 Signals and Sensory Perceptionp. 26
3 Is Signaling Intentional or Unintentional?p. 48
4 Communication in Birdsp. 70
5 Communication in Mammalsp. 100
6 Learning to Communicatep. 128
7 The Evolution of Communicationp. 150
8 Human-Animal Contactsp. 169
Referencesp. 185
Indexp. 201