Locomotion-Induced Sounds and Sonations: Mechanisms, Communication Function, and Relationship with Behavior

Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 53)


Motion-induced sound is an intrinsic byproduct of essentially all animal behavior. Locomotion-induced sounds that have evolved specialization for communication are termed sonations. The null hypothesis is that locomotion-induced sounds are noncommunicative (adventitious), produced by nonspecialized morphology, and are involuntary. A sound is a sonation if it is produced by specialized morphology, or is produced voluntarily. The production of locomotion-induced sound can be examined at two levels: the animal motions (kinematics) that lead to sound production and the physical acoustic mechanism(s) that generate(s) the sound itself. The physical acoustics of locomotion induced sound are diverse, with both aerodynamic and structural mechanisms, including aeroelastic flutter, percussion, stridulation, and presumably many other undescribed mechanisms. There is a direct sound–motion correspondence between aspects of an animal’s motions and ensuing locomotion-induced sounds, especially in the time domain. This correspondence has two implications. One is experimental: sound recordings are a useful and perhaps underutilized source of data about animal locomotion. The second is behavioral: locomotion-induced sounds intrinsically contain information about an animal’s motions (such as wingbeat frequencies) that may be of interest to other animals. Therefore, locomotion-induced sounds are intrinsically suited to be mechanisms by which animals directly evaluate the locomotor performance of other animals, such as during courtship. The sound–motion correspondence is also a constraint. Sonations seem less acoustically diverse than vocalizations. Because they require discrete behaviors to be produced, animals also have somewhat fewer opportunities to produce sonations strategically, and few sonations are frequency-modulated. Sound production mechanisms of sonations are external to the animal and therefore are easy to manipulate experimentally on wild animals, making sonations an ideal, underutilized system for testing hypotheses about acoustic function.


Adventitious Communication Flight Flutter Hummingbird Kinematics Manakin Mechanical sound Nonvocal Voluntariness Wing 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

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