Noise shapes the efficacy and evolution of biological communication systems. Although examined in auditory and visual communication, the effects of noise on olfactory communication remains poorly known. We propose using information theory as a tool for analyzing noise in one type of olfactory signaling: between plants and insects. Plants and insects are cornerstones of terrestrial ecosystems, and understanding communication between them is crucial to describing the full scope of their interactions and how human-caused disturbances disrupt those interactions. Here, we outline sources of noise affecting parts of the signaling channels between plants and insects: signal generation by plants, transmission through the air, and reception by insects. Sources of noise include environmental variation that affects plant and insect physiologies, as well as turbulence and chemical interference. Information theory provides methods for analyzing chemical communication and hypotheses for how selection might act to reduce noise.
- information theory
- plant volatiles