Conserved meaning despite different structure over the years

Woodpeckers' drumming: Conserved meaning despite different structure over the years
Great spotted woodpecker during the field experiment. Credit: Alain Blanc, ENES team

Animal acoustic signals are amazingly diverse. Researchers from the University of Zurich and the University of Saint-Etienne, together with French, American and Dutch collaborators, explored the function and diversification of animal acoustic signals and the mechanisms underlying the evolution of animal communication systems.


To this end, they used Shannon and Weaver’s “Mathematical Theory of Communication,” originally applied to telecommunications in 1949, which has transformed the scientific understanding of animal communication. This theory allows the amount of information in a signal to be quantified. The researchers were the first to use this framework within an evolutionary perspective to explore the biological information encoded in an animal signal.

How drumming structure evolves over time

In deciding which biological model to choose, the researchers selected the woodpeckers’ drumming as their ideal candidate. This bird family is known for rapidly striking their

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