Signal detection, acceptance thresholds and the evolution of animal recognition systems

A. V. Suarez, H. M. Scharf, H. K. Reeve, M. E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nearly every biological interaction requires some kind of recognition. Recognition systems, therefore, play critical roles in discriminating among friends and foes in diverse contexts including self, mate, kin, predator-prey, and host-parasite interactions. Evolution should favour stringent recognition when mistakes are costly. Yet, both acceptance errors (e.g., accepting a parasitic cuckoo’s mimetic egg) and rejection errors (eliminating your own egg instead) are common. To examine how individuals balance these error-costs, behavioural ecologists have extensively applied a Signal Detection Theory framework. The central aim of our special issue was to bring together diverse biological perspectives, research themes, and participants to highlight accomplishments, to underline shortcomings, and to point towards future work in signal detection based concepts of recognition system theory and data.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190464
Pages (from-to)20190464
Number of pages1
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1802
StatePublished - Jul 6 2020


  • COVID-19
  • threshold models
  • immunity
  • Disease transmission
  • Signal detection theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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