Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Elephants tell human friends from foes by scent and clothing color

22.10.2007
Elephants are remarkably perceptive when it comes to recognizing specific ethnic groups of people that vary in the degree of danger they are likely to pose, reveals a new study published online on October 18th by Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

Elephants in Kenya reacted with greater fear when they detected the scent of garments previously worn by Maasai warriors than by Kamba men, the researchers reported. Maasai warriors are known to demonstrate their virility by spearing elephants, while the Kamba agriculturalists today pose little threat, they explained. The elephants also respond aggressively to red clothing, which is traditionally worn by young Maasai men.

On the basis of earlier anecdotal evidence of elephants¡¯ behavior toward Maasai people and their cattle, ¡°We expected that elephants might be able to distinguish among different human groups according to the level of risk that each presents to them, and we were not disappointed,¡± said Richard Byrne of the University of St. Andrews.

¡°In fact, we think that this is the first time that it has been experimentally shown that any animal can categorize a single species of potential predator into subclasses based on such subtle cues,¡± added Lucy Bates, also at the University of St. Andrews.

... more about:
»Color »Maasai »clothing »reaction »scent

In the current study, working with the long-running Amboseli Elephant Research Project, the researchers first presented elephants with clean, red clothing and with red clothing that had been worn for five days by either a Maasai or a Kamba man. In comparison to either a Kamba-worn or unworn garment, Maasai-scented clothing motivated elephants to travel significantly faster in the first minute after they began to move, the researchers found. The elephants also traveled farther from the cloth smelling of the Maasai in the first five minutes, and took significantly longer to relax after they stopped running away.

They then investigated whether elephants can also use garment color as a cue to classify humans in the absence of scent differences by comparing their reactions to red versus white cloth. The elephants reacted with more aggression toward red than white, they found, noting that to elephants, red is actually a drab color.

Bates speculated that the difference in the elephants¡¯ emotional reaction to odor versus color might relate to the amount of risk they sense in the two situations, adding that elephants have a keen sense of smell. ¡°With any scent present, fear and escape reactions seem to dominate anything else,¡± she said.

Elephants¡¯ tendency to flee at the mere whiff of a person may have other implications, Byrne said. ¡°While elephants can undoubtedly be dangerous when they come into conflict with humans, our data shows that, given the opportunity, they would far rather run away, even before they encounter the humans in person.

¡°We see this experiment as just a start to investigating precisely how elephants ¡®see the world,¡¯ but it may be that their abilities will turn out to equal or exceed those of our closer relatives, the monkeys and apes,¡± he added.

Nancy Wampler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.current-biology.com

Further reports about: Color Maasai clothing reaction scent

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees
20.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht The Kitchen Sponge – Breeding Ground for Germs
20.07.2017 | Hochschule Furtwangen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>