In this chapter, concepts derived from communication network theory are applied to the understanding of the evolution of signals in species with alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs). These species are particularly interesting to consider from the perspective of communicating in a network because the signaling and receiving behavior of different reproductive phenotypes can be expected to be subject to diverse selection pressures. We begin by briefly introducing ARTs and communication networks. Then the consequences of communicating in a network are considered from the perspective of the several reproductive phenotypes occurring in species with ARTs, both as signalers and receivers. Finally, the evolutionary outcome of conflict and cooperation between these reproductive phenotypes is predicted in an integrative approach, and new directions are proposed to test some of the hypotheses derived.
Alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) is the term used to refer to variation in mating behavior found within a species. As the topic is the subject of this book, we will only briefly introduce ARTs in relation to signaling. More detailed information on ARTs can be found in several chapters in this book and recent reviews (e.g., Brockmann 2001, Shuster and Wade 2003).
For simplicity, we have only considered male ARTs. This choice reflects the facts that male ARTs are more common than female ARTs (but see Alonzo, Chapter 18, this volume) and that many more examples of male ARTs have been described. Nevertheless, the ideas presented here extend directly to female ARTs.
Some of the most conspicuous behaviours performed by an animal are related to communication – communication that mediates reproduction and survival. As explained below, a knowledge of animal communication is important in more respects than simply its role in understanding such fundamental aspects of animals'lives. This book is about a perspective that can increase our understanding of animal communication.
One way in which animal communication is important is that it interfaces with and links several fields of study. In the field of behaviour, for example, communication is often used to illustrate Niko Tinbergen's four types of question (function, mechanism, development and evolution) and how the answers complement each other (e.g. Krebs & Davies, 1993). Communication has interfaces with many other areas of biology including evolution, ecology, population genetics, neurobiology and physiology. For example, it can be a window into the cognitive worlds of animals (e.g. Ch. 24). Links with other sciences are shown by the use of ideas and techniques from psychology to understand how communication is perceived (Ch. 20), and using information from physics and chemistry to explain how communication is achieved (e.g. Bradbury & Vehrencamp, 1998).
Communication cannot occur in isolation; it is an inherently social behaviour. This makes it even more surprising that the wider social context in which communication takes place is rarely considered explicitly. As explained in the next paragraph, it is likely that communication commonly occurs in the context of a network of several animals.
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