Stephen Nowicki

Departments of Biology, Psychology and Neurobiology, Duke University

Do Animals Lie?




When young birds beg for food from their parents, do they ask for more than they need? When fish flash their fins in an aggressive encounter, do they signal how likely they are to attack? When peacocks spread their trains to attract females, do they provide information about how good a mate they will be? Evidence from field and laboratory studies suggest that most animal signals are honest, in the sense that they convey accurate information to the intended receiver, although it is equally clear that some signals are deceptive. This talk will explore our understanding of reliability and deception in animal signals, providing examples that illustrate how the reliability of animal signals is maintained in spite of the potential evolutionary advantages of deception.