Types of Communication in Animals


Animals have a need to communicate just like humans. Animal communication is used to scare off predators, find a mate, help find food or even to strengthen the bonds among the animals. Animals communicate in many different ways including visual displays, sound, chemicals, touch and even electricity.

Visual Communication

  • Animals use two types of visual communication, badges and displays. Badges are the ways the animals look or the shapes of the animals. For example, the male cardinal is bright red whereas the female cardinal is brown. The bright red feathers are a badge displaying how healthy and fit the male is for mating. Displays are when animals exhibit a certain behavior such as baring teeth or dancing. A dog growling and showing it's teeth is a warning display. Another example of a display is how honey bees use a dance to help other bees find flowers to collect food to the hive.


  • Just like humans, animals communicate through the use of sound. Animals might use sound to attract mates such as the rumbling sound produced by the American alligator. Animals also use sound to warn others about predators or protect their habitats. Dogs will bark when someone they do not know comes close to them. Red squirrels make loud screeches, rattles and other noises to ward off potential threats. Coyotes uses a series of barks and yips to mark their territory and to let other coyotes in the area know their location. Dolphins and bats use echolocation, which is a series of sounds bounced off objects, to locate prey and communicate with other animals.

Tactile Communication

  • Tactile communication is the use of feel or touch to communicate. Animals that use tactile communication use it to create bonds, establish dominance and to comfort other animals. An example of tactile communication is when a cat rubs against your leg. Many species of primates groom each other using touch to both clean one another and to grow closer bonds.

Chemical Communication

  • Chemical communication uses pheromones to attract mates, to mark territory or even to track prey. Many animals such as mountain lions mark their territories by urinating on territory boundaries. Lynx will scratch trees with their claws containing scent glands leaving both a visual and chemical message for other animals. Skunks are known for their unpleasant smelling chemicals they spray in order to keep predators away. Animals might also use chemicals to identify family members. Mule deer have glands located at the base of their hooves that young mule deer will smell to recognize their mothers.


  • Some fish and animals are capable of releasing electricity in the water to use as electrocommunication. The Black Ghost Knife fish and Elephant Nose fish produce electric organ discharges (EOD) to communicate where they are, what gender they are and to help locate surrounding prey. These fish produce these EODs in either a pulse or wave pattern depending on the fish.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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