Elephants ‘phone’ their friends

A new research has shown that elephants use rumble vocalisations that can transmit over one and a half miles, in an attempt to contact other tuskers in their herd, which can be called as their version of “phone a friend”.According to a report in Discovery News, the finding helps to explain how elephants almost always find their way back to their herd, even after they wander far off.

Elephants can see and smell their fellow herd members over long distances too, but visual obstructions, such as rocks, trees and even other big animals, can block their views, while wind changes and smells can compromise odor detection.

“The auditory system seems to provide a method to detect and communicate with individuals over both long and short distances, and we know that individuals can use auditory information to determine the location and identity of herd members,” lead author Katherine Leighty explained to Discovery News.

Leighty, a behavioural ecologist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, and her team conducted the first systematic study of spontaneously produced elephant rumble vocalisations.

These are typically infrasonic calls, with frequencies between 13 and 35 Hz, which fall outside the range of human hearing. Their test subjects were five unrelated adult female African elephants at the spacious Disney Bay Lake site.

Each elephant was outfitted with a GPS system and recorder attached to a collar made out of fire hose. The scientists discovered that like a person answering a phone call, elephants that detected a rumble would often rumble back. But, the elephants were more inclined to answer if they had a close affiliation with the caller.

The elephants sometimes even appear to blow off detected rumbles. — ANI