When elephants become separated from their group they can use their keen senses of smell and sight to locate their brethren, OR they can use the Earth like a giant telephone and call their herd with rumble vocalizations. A new study by Katherine Leighty and a team from the…wait for it….wait for it…Disney Animal Kingdom in Florida (yes, seriously!) has shed light on how elephants use these infrasonic sounds to communicate through the ground over distances of up to 1.5 miles.

Thank you for calling 1-999-HOTTUSK, the steamiest place to rendevous with Africa’s most eligable, randiest elephants. You are about to be connected via subsonic rumbles to a coed pachiderm wallowing in a muddy watering hole. Be sure to have your VISA or Mastercard ready, $4.99 for the first minute, $.99 each additional minute. And 1-999-HOTTUSK is for elephants over the age of 3 only.

In an interview with Discovery News, Leighty explained, “”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.”

Using gps systems and recorders attached to collars made of firehoses on five elephants at the Animal Kingdom, Leighty gathered data on the elephants subsonic conversations noting who was talking to whom. Elephants with close relationships with one another were more apt to respond to rumble vocalizations of each other than those who were not close. The rumbles also led to behavior changes with the elephants often moving closer to one another in response to a call. Some also appeared to snub their friends by not responding to their call. In fact, more than a few of Leighty’s findings resembled interactions between friends on MySpace. Leighty explained, “You see Moyo and Fiki were totally bff last month, but then Thandi told Moyo that Fiki wanted to be bff with her and that anyway she was like, completely into Vasha and obvi Vasha and Moyo were like such a big thing last year and now Moyo is completely furious with Fiki and Fiki is like all mad at Thandi for telling Moyo about Fiki…” Fascinating.


  1. #1 Ashley
    October 2, 2008

    This is really interesting, thats weird how the different rumbles affected their behavior, and really cool that you could tell who they were talking to and the relationship and stuff!

  2. #2 Jenbug
    October 4, 2008

    This is awesome. I am utilizing the verb ‘rumble’ from now on in response to calling people. It sounds weirdly British, too for some reason.

  3. #3 Alan
    October 16, 2008

    There is a good deal of anecdotal information appearing in literature by guides, hunters, etc. strongly suggesting that elephants may be able to somehow ‘hear’ one another at distances as great as twenty miles. There are numerous reports of herds fleeing into protected areas at times that other distant herds are being culled or hunted.

  4. #4 muhabbet
    March 26, 2009


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