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.
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!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy