• Sulochana Gadgil

      Articles written in Proceedings – Animal Sciences

    • On the communication of well-being

      Madhav Gadgil Malati Hegde N V Joshi Sulochana Gadgil

      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      The form that any communicatory exchange takes would depend on the extent to which the interests of the signaller and the recipient are at variance. Where such interests coincide, i.e. in cases of mutualism, the signals may be conspicuous when an immediate response is favoured, but rather subtle and variable otherwise. Over 80 % of the events of tactile communication that we have noted in our study of the social behaviour of free ranging groups of tame elephants appear to belong to this latter category. On Smith’s standard classification, they can only be classified as ‘associative’, related to remaining in the company of another individual. However, such signals are commoner by a factor of 20–100 amongst elephant calves and their mothers and allomothers when compared to exchanges between adult cows. We suggest that the function of these signals is mutual monitoring of the state of well being amongst related individuals. The considerable degree of altruistic behaviour displayed in social groups, such as those of elephants is now believed to subserve the function of enhancing the inclusive fitness of the individuals concerned. We explore a mathematical model of exchange of social aid which suggests that animals in social groups may enhance their inclusive fitness further by adjusting the amount of social aid exchanged in relation to the state of well being of the donor as well as the recipient. Our model further suggests that optimal social aid depends on the state of well being in a complex fashion making it difficult for the recipient to deceive the donor so as to extract more aid. We therefore expect that by and large honest communication of the state of well being would be characteristic of the higher social animals. Such communication would be based on normal physiological changes consequent on a change in well being. Thus animals with a superior degree of well being would take postures conducive to greater activity, would be more receptive to sensory inputs and may also shift the balance of production of various metabolites. This monitoring of the well being has greatly advanced in the human species and may be at the base of the elaborate health care amongst human societies.

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