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I have got a idea of a eusocial species that creates huge And wide colonies that can go through different environments from underground tunnels, to a island a few miles offshore, to miles away farther from the original location and I wanted all these creatures to still be in contact to each other. that’s when I got the question of how would they stay in contact to each other from such distances.

What form of communication would work in this scenario?

Note: any form of communication even it isn’t commonly used or is completely theoritical as long as members of colonies can spread information to each other.

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  • $\begingroup$ What are the requirements for "effectiveness"? Do you need the fastest possible way to transmit small messages from A to B? A way to transmit huge amounts of information, with quantity being more important than speed? A way to broadcast something from a central location to the whole colony? $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Jul 3, 2020 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ Also - do your eusocial creatures use the surface, or stay mostly in the tunnels? Are they sentient? Do they possess any level of technology? $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Jul 3, 2020 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Qami- they need to be able to broadcast information to the whole colony and for long distances to and they have a hierarchy some castes mostly spend time underground while others spend time on the surface some of them even are semi aquatic also they have sapient intelligence but possessi a primitive form of technology similar to early humans. $\endgroup$
    – Random guy
    Jul 3, 2020 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Of interest: Biological radio evolution. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2020 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ Are signal repeaters allowed? E.g. a handful of "drummers/signalers" who receive a message and send it to the next node. $\endgroup$
    – Nyos
    Jul 3, 2020 at 23:15

3 Answers 3

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Elephants produce infrasound, and can communicate among themselves even if two of them are 10 km apart (about 6.2 miles).

Whales, who sing in ultrasound, can communicate from even further away, since water carries sound waves further. Orcas can hear each other from 16km away (about 10 miles). Larger whales have vocalizations that can be heard from further yet - some googling suggests distances of up to 6,500 km (4,000 miles), and at least one source goes for more than double that. But I could not find a wiki nor a scientific article, so I don't feel like linking - just take those numbers with a grain of salt.

Whales are also known to produce their calls at a very specific depth below surface, which it turns out is where the properties of water at that temperature, pressure and density, allow for the highest efficiency of sound transmission over long distances.

This question is also relevant: What would be the communication range of an underwater species?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the issue of how far away whale song can be heard is complicated by the fact that: (1) mostly what we are measuring is how far away a human being with a hydrophone can hear the sound! Our gadgets might be more sensitive than whale ears. (2) The SOFAR channel where sound propagates furthest is way too deep for many species of whale/dolphin to reach. And it vanishes altogether in polar waters. This NOAA website says 600-1200m depth: oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/sound01/background/… $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Jul 4, 2020 at 15:02
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Infrasound, as used by elephants and whales, has very low bandwidth but can carry information over many miles (or underwater, hundreds of miles) without difficulty.

It all depends on what you want to communicate, but an intelligent race will develop codes and data compression techniques.

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Information packages. Write something up or paint a picture, make a package, send it away.

  • Speed: speed of feet or wings
  • Data amount: unlimited per package
  • Receivers: few
  • feels unnatural

Sound. Whistling, singing, rhythmic thumping. Singing chords or combining rhythm and many layers of chords can greatly increase the data amount / channel width.

  • Speed: speed of sound.
  • Data amount: limited per minute and slower over long distances. In short distance, if all of the above is used by your race, near-telepathic channel width is possible in short distance
  • Receivers: all in hearing range. Everyone in range shares the same channel. More range under water or through solid rock.
  • feels natural

Electronic communication. Why never a race on earth has developed a way to communicate naturally over electric signals is an enigma to me. If your race has a way of communicating electrically, evolution will have found all the tricks of fractal antennas and such, relaxing the limitations of antenna sizes which will correspond to body sizes. Natural electricity will be somewhat limited - you won't see natural beings which communicate over hundreds of km with this, because the (kilo-)watts are missing in natural bodies. But in an electrically otherwise silent area those could certainly "scream" over 2 or 3 km range, even somewhat directed if the evolution was diligent.

Even if you don't use this as long range comm, this could be interesting as near field "telepathic" connection when touching hands or other body parts. Ants do this chemically when touching with their antennas.

  • Speed: speed of light
  • Data amount: limited similar like sound, but with a lot lot greater parallel potential.
  • Receivers: all in "hearing" range, lot less under water with antennas that fit in 2m of body.
  • feels natural as long as it is analog and not digital communication.
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