High-speed creature communication has been making the news recently. There was underwater research on deep-sea squid,1 and now bird communication. In fact, the rapid signaling discovered in the honeyeater bird is all part of an intricate multi-part message that has scientists in awe at both its rapidity and complexity.2
The honeyeaters are a large and diverse family of small to medium sized birds mostly found in Australia and New Guinea. When a honeyeater is threated with a predator, such as a hawk, it gives out an alarm call in the blink of an eye. Researchers have analyzed this life-saving message in detail and uncovered a level of rapid-fire complexity never realized before.
When a hawk has spotted a honeyeater it wants for lunch, it will swoop down at a very high velocity on its target. The honeyeater has only a split second to flee to for cover. This fraction of a second makes the difference between life and death. During this brief time point, the honeyeater is not only engaging in rapid evasive maneuvering, but is giving out a two-stage alarm to warn its buddies.
Other types of animals are also known to signal urgent danger using repeated sounds, but often take a longer amount of time to deliver. The problem facing the honeyeater is how to make a lightning-fast information-rich message to benefit the other birds while staying alive at the same time. Fortunately, God has hardwired such programming and linguistic ability into the bodies and behavior of this bird.
When the honeyeater gives out this important message, it “front-loads” the information concerning urgency into the first note of the alarm call, allowing other honeyeaters to respond quickly and take cover. Then the honeyeater tags on more specific notes to reinforce the message and signal information to the others on how long they need to remain hidden. And these messages will get longer with more notes in direct relationship to the level of threat.
Evolutionists are at a loss to explain how this highly sophisticated rapid-fire adaptive communication trait within a complex social context could have arisen through random evolutionary processes. A complex multi-level trait like this would involve hundreds of genes to produce the sound producing and sound receiving systems (organs) in the bird. Plus, these birds need the built-in ability to recognize and decode the sophisticated messages. These amazingly sophisticated trait systems can only be the work of an all-powerful Creator that engineered these honeyeaters in the beginning.
1. Tomkins, J.P. Deep Water Squid Communication Mystifies Scientists. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org March 27, 2020, accessed April 1, 2020.
2. Potvin, D.A. et al. 2018. Birds Learn Socially to Recognize Heterospecific Alarm Calls by Acoustic Association. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.013.
*Dr. Tomkins is Life Sciences Director at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his doctorate in genetics from Clemson University.
High-Speed Bird Communication Is Complex