Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Elephants Imitate Sounds as a Form of Social Communication

29.03.2005


Join birds, bats and dolphins as vocal learners



Elephants learn to imitate sounds that are not typical of their species, the first known example after humans of vocal learning in a non-primate terrestrial mammal. The discovery, reported in today’s Nature, further supports the idea that vocal learning is important for maintaining individual social relationships among animals that separate and reunite over time, like dolphins and whales, some birds, and bats.

Researchers from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Kenya, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Vienna studied sounds made by two African elephants, one living among semi-captive orphaned elephants and the other with two Asian elephants in a zoo. One imitated truck noises heard from a nearby highway, the other the chirps of another elephant species.


In both cases, the sounds were totally different from sounds made by other normal calf, adolescent and adult African elephants and very similar to recorded sounds that were common in the auditory environment of the subjects of this study. Spectrogram analyses of the audio frequency of the imitations were nearly perfect matches to the original sounds.

Mlaika, a ten-year-old adolescent female African elephant living in Kenya among a group of semi-captive orphans, mimicked noises she heard from trucks on a highway nearly two miles away. Her imitations of the trucks sounded much like recorded truck sounds and nothing like normal calls of African elephants. Mlaika did not appear to imitate
particular trucks as she was hearing them, but rather seemed to use generalized truck sounds as the model for her imitation.

Calimero, a 23-year-old male African elephant who lived for 18 years with two female Asian elephants in a Swiss zoo, was a nearly perfect mimic for the chirp-like calls of his long-time zoo mates. The chirps are made by Asian elephants but not by African elephants. Calimero often mimicked the chirps but rarely made any other sounds.

“Many species with similar social systems as elephants use vocal imitation to maintain individual-specific relationships, “study co-author Stephanie Watwood of WHOI said. “Our study suggests that elephants may be using their vocal learning abilities in a similar manner, and opens a fascinating new area for research on how elephants use vocal learning.”

Vocal learning is important because it enables an open communication system in which animals and humans develop new signals with shared associations. Recent playback experiments conducted by Karen McComb of Sussex University have shown that elephants can remember the calls of a large number of other elephants. The new findings suggest that elephants, like parrots, bats, and dolphins, may use vocal learning to develop new communication signals for maintaining complex individual-specific social relationships, study co-author Peter Tyack of WHOI said. Tyack has studied the social behavior and acoustics signals of marine mammals, especially dolphins and whales, for decades.

“It is exciting to see that African savannah elephants follow a pattern we’ve seen in other terrestrial and aquatic species capable of vocal learning, “Tyack said. “Vocal learning should also occur in other species where long-lived social bonds are based on individual relationships and where members of a group separate and reunite over time.”

The study was funded by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>