All animal species have some capacity for communication but communication abilities range from very simple to extremely complex, depending upon the species. Communication is influenced by a species' genetic makeup, its environment, and the numerous ways by which animals and humans respond to and adapt to their surroundings. You'll learn more about this topic by doing the activities on this E-Sheet.
Go to the Orangutan U Science Update. Listen to the audio file and then read the accompanying research. Think about the answers to the questions posed in the article. You will discuss these with your class.
Now go to and read All Animals Communicate. When you are finished, answer these questions:
- Are humans constantly communicating? How about other animals?
- Are there any special areas in human brains that make us distinct from other animals?
- Which animals have communication abilities that are close to humans?
- Do scientists believe that chimps have a language like humans?
- What are some examples of ways that humans can communicate that are different from other animals?
Read these articles:
When you are finished, answer these questions:
- Is the ability to communicate the exclusive possession of human beings?
- List some of the ways that animals express themselves
- Who do you think will have greater communication abilities: a dog that lives in a regular home or a dog that lives in a circus. Why?
Write a brief essay explaining this statement:
Although all species have some capacity for communication, there is a range of abilities among species.
Be sure to provide examples from the resources you have explored in this lesson.
If you'd like, you can visit these websites to learn more about animal communication.
This esheet is a part of the Animal Communication lesson.
If someone asked you what separates humans from other animals, one of the first things that would probably come to mind is language. Language is so fundamental to human life that it's hard to imagine what life would be like without it. In fact, the original term for language referred to it as part of the body—language is derived from the Latin word lingua, meaning tongue. Barnett highlights the inseparability of language from man when he says, “Verbal communication is a condition of the existence of human society.”
But at the same time, other animals also communicate: Your cat may let you know when its hungry, ants use pheromones and sound to indicate social status and distress, bees dance to tell one another where to find honey, and chimpanzees can learn sign language.
So when we think of language as a way of setting ourselves apart, what is it about our language that is different than how other animals communicate?
In the video below, Professor Marc van Oostendorp of the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics discusses three of the major differences between human and animal communication; this article will examine these differences and more.