Signalling is pretty much everywhere in the animal kingdom.
We know that some organisms use displays or calls or body structures to attract mates ... or ward off intruders ... or show how wonderfully strong and appealing they are. (Hmmm ... can you think of any examples?)
But what scientists are starting to figure out is that not all these signals are - shall we say - honest. Sometimes appearances aren't the same as reality. And there are times when it pays to show what you might be, rather than what you actually are. We're studying dishonesty in signalling in a number of different research systems, including crabs (who signal strength via their claws) and soccer players (who signal fouls via dives).
Currently, we're looking at projects such as:
1. How the trait an organism portrays relates to its actual characteristics (honesty), and the costs and benefits related to these signals.
Posts relating to this topic include:
Cheating pays off for females but not males
How humans differ from crabs
Tackling the problem of diving in football
And publications include:
Walter G, Van Uietregt V, & Wilson RS. 2011. Social control of unreliable signals of strength in males but not females of the crayfish Cherax destructor. Journal of Experimental Biology. 214: 3294-3299.
Wilson RS & Angilletta MJ. In press. Dishonest signals of strength. In Ed. D. J. Irschick, M. Briffa, and J. Podos. Animal Signalling: a Functional Perspective. Ralph Wiley Press.
Wilson RS, Condon CH, David G, FitzGibbon SI, Niehaus AC & Pratt K. 2010. Females prefer athletes, males fear the disadvantaged: different signals used in female choice and male competition have varied consequences. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 277: 1923-1928.
Wilson RS, James RS, Bywater C & Seebacher F. 2009. Costs and benefits of increased weapon size differ between sexes of the slender crayfish, Cherax dispar. Journal of Experimental Biology 212:853-858.
Bywater C, Angilletta MJ and Wilson RS. 2008. Weapon size is a reliable predictor of weapon strength and social dominance in females of the slender crayfish. Functional Ecology. 22:311-316.
Seebacher F & Wilson RS. 2007. Individual recognition in crayfish (Cherax dispar): the roles of strength and experience in deciding aggressive encounters. Biology Letters 3:471-474.
Wilson RS, Angilletta MJ, James RS, Navas C & Seebacher F. 2007. Dishonest signals of strength in male slender crayfish (Cherax dispar) during agonistic interactions. The American Naturalist. 170:284-291
If you're interested in any of this work, or would like more information - please contact Robbie at email@example.com.