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Citation. Montgomery, G. G. 1974. Communication in red fox dyads: a computer simulation study. Smithsonian Contribution to Zoology. No. 187, pp. 1-30. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. [1443 CC]
Abstract. This paper reports on a computer simulation study of communication that occurs in red fox [Vulpes vulpes (=V.fulva)] dyads with various means of signalling when the animals move about and signal with various emission intensities and at various time intervals. For any two animals, three major factors limit communication: (1) whether appropriate signal mechanisms are available, (2) whether they are motivated to communicate, and (3) whether their movements and locations are such that signals can pass between them. In this study, signal mechanisms and motivation were not considered as variables, but the role of animal movement in limiting communication was. No tactile communication occurred between members of any of the simulated dyads, and close-range visual or vocal communication (from 16 m or less) occurred only rarely. Visual communication occurred frequently with reasonably short visual ranges (20 percent of the time from 306 m), and is probably usually limited by darkness and terrain. Vocal signals that could be heard from 644 meters gave communication 20 percent of the time when the signaller vocalized 4.7 times per hour. Wild red fox seldom emit loud vocalizations, however, and vocal communication is probably not of prime importance in maintaining dyadic social bonds. Communication occurred 20 percent of the time with scent point signalling (scent marking, when scent remained effective for 8 hours or longer, when scent could be smelled 96 m from the scent mark, and when the signaller marked twice per hour. Thus, high levels of dyadic communication may be achieved through scent marking, and this form of signalling may be of great importance in maintaining dyadic spacing and social bonding. The particular movement patterns of the animals that formed each dyad had a differential effect on the level of communication, regardless of the means of signalling. Those means of signalling that involved the fewest communication variables were most severely limited by movements of the animals. Where more variables associated with emission of signal were available to the animal, emission could be optimized to minimize effects of movement on communication. This study suggests that the animals can adjust the distance between them, the time between them, or both, if prior communication has given mutual awareness of the locations and movement patterns. In these adjustments, they can increase or decrease the efficiency of signalling in one or more ways, and thus control the level of dyadic communication.
Keywords. red fox, Vulpes vulpes, computer simulation, dyadic communication