Dialects, Animal

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

“Dialects,” Animal


local peculiarities of various “languages” or other means of communication of animals of the same species. Dialects are known for both animal sounds and for other acoustic means of communication of mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates (mainly insects). Animal dialects have also been described for other forms of animal communication.

In studying the so-called circular dance of bees, by means of which the worker bee communicates to other bees information about the location of honey-bearing plants it has found (the other bees receive the information tactilely by feeling the worker), K. von Frisch showed that the style of the dance was different for bees from different populations (for example, Austrian bees did not “understand” Italian bees). Mimicry and gesticulation, by means of which animals communicate with one another visually, are not identical for populations of the same species that inhabit different regions (for mammals, birds, fish, and some arthropods—for example, fiddler crabs). The existence of geographic differences in even the “chemical language” of animals, especially in specific odors, has been postulated. Differences in animal sounds (songs and cries) have been studied the most thoroughly. Both local “subdialects,” which are peculiar to groups of animals occupying small territories (for birds, sometimes a few hundred hectares), and animal dialects, which are common to the inhabitants of various geographic regions, are distinguished. Animal dialects arise from individual peculiarities and serve as a means both for unifying the animals within a population and for differentiating populations from each other.


Mal’chevskii, A. S. Gnezdovaia zhizn’ pevchikh ptits. Leningrad, 1959.
Frisch, K. von. Iz zhizni pchel. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from German.)
Thorpe, W. H. Bird-song. Cambridge, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.