Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Why does the complexity of functionally equivalent signals vary across closely related species?


Ord, Terry; Nelson, Claire; Sherwin, William (2022), Data from: Why does the complexity of functionally equivalent signals vary across closely related species?, Dryad, Dataset,


Animal signals are observed to vary widely in complexity among species, but why this should be the case—especially among closely related taxa—is unclear. Identifying the selective forces that drive these differences is important for understanding signal evolution, as well as the origins of communication more generally. We used a measure derived from information theory to quantify the complexity of visual territorial advertisement displays performed by males of closely related taxa of Puerto Rican Anolis lizard. In general, the information potential of visual displays appeared to be high compared to signals of other taxonomic groups (e.g., other lizards, birds). Nevertheless, there was still considerable variation in signal complexity among the Anolis taxa studied. We found a strong relationship between signal complexity and phylogeny for some aspects of the advertisement display traditionally thought to be important in species recognition. Other aspects of the display tended to vary independently of phylogeny, with differences in signal complexity among taxa reflecting the distance over which displays were typically viewed by territorial neighbours, and to some extent the number of sympatric congeners present in the environment. More generally, we highlight a little used, but tractable means of quantifying complexity in different species—and in different aspects of the same signal (the number, timing and type of components)—that can reveal the evolutionary processes generating increases (or decreases) in communicative complexity.


Details are provided in full in the published paper associated with this data set

Usage Notes

Please see the associated read me file for this data set for full description of data provided


University of New South Wales