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.
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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.