Answer by Rory Young:
Animals communicate using the same principle methods as humans do. However, in most forms of communication it is less sophisticated than ours, most obviously in sound communication. In some forms of communication, such as chemical communications it is we who are unsophisticated.Communication among land animals can either be via Visual, Auditory,Seismic, Electro, touch or Olfactory/chemical communication.Autocommunication is when an animal communicates with itself for some purpose such as bats using echo-location.Touch communication is quite common among some cultures such as the Maya and also among many types of animals, especially elephant. For example, the elephant equivalent of a “hug” is to “hug” or twist trunks together.
Elephants use just as much visual communication as humans do. Visual communication is “body language”. How they walk, stand, look approach all have different meanings. They also use their trunks, eyes, ears and tusks to convey different communications to each other.
Electrocommunication is usually used among certain species of fish, mainly “weakly electric fish” species recognition,courtship and sex recognition, motivational status (attack warning or submission) and environmental conditions.
Chemical communication is more common among other animals than man. In this way we differ greatly from many animals. Territorial marking is extremely common and we are quite unusual in that we don’t use scent much in our communications.
Many animals have a Jacobson’s organ which is used to detect pheromones released by other animals, especially females in estrus. This is called “Flehming”. We don’t have one.
Using sound is common but often different to us. Elephants probably have the most sophisticated system as they use infra-sound, which is a much lower frequency than we can hear. They use these low rumbles up to 12 km away from each other. They also use seismic sound, something discovered recently by Joyce Poole in Kenya. Seismic sound is extremely low frequency vibration travelling through the earth and in the case of elephants is sensed through the feet.
The animal that comes closest to man’s use of voice communication for social grooming purposes is the Gelada. Since their hands are occupied breaking grass for long periods, they use vocalizations instead of physical grooming as a means of bonding.