School of Mathematics

Richard Blythe

Richard Blythe abstract

Richard Blythe, School of Physics, UoE

Evolution of communication by natural selection

 Communication comprises two behaviours: a signal and a response. Evolution of a communication system invokes a chicken-and-egg problem: without a pre-existing signal, a costly response will not spontaneously appear through natural selection; likewise, without a pre-existing response, a costly signal will also not evolve. In nature, it appears that the former scenario (ritualisation) is more common than the latter (sensory manipulation): we argue that this asymmetry lies in the fact that signalling behaviour has the potential to be "dishonest" in a way that the response cannot. We also investigate the construction of compositional signals by natural selection - where pre-existing signals are combined to refer to a state of the environment that unrelated to those of their component parts - and show that the existence of a class of non-compositional signalling systems suppresses the emergence of compositional systems, despite the fact that both are evolutionarily stable.