Animal communication in any sensory modality is influenced by environmental constraints on signal transmission and detection. Acoustic signals are subject to frequency-dependent attenuation, temporal degradation, and masking by environmental noise; these factors constrain the spectral and temporal structures of long-range sound signals. Signals produced by electric fish are largely free of such physical environmental constraints on their spectral and temporal structures, but experience severe attenuation due to geometrical spreading. This effectively limits electric communication to short ranges, whereas acoustic signals are more flexible in the range over which they are effective.

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