Elephant Long-Distance Calls
THE ability of elephants to find one another quickly when miles apart has puzzled scientists for years. Now, it seems, the secret of these largest living land animals has been revealed—they use infrasound! That is sound at frequencies too low for humans to hear.
Elephants are the first land mammals found that keep in touch with one another by infrasound, says Focus, the newsletter of World Wildlife Fund. Researcher Katharine Payne of Cornell University (U.S.) discovered the elephant’s “secret” talk about three years ago when she observed Asian elephants in a zoo. She noticed vibrations around her similar to those caused by “the lowest pipe on an organ.” Later, special recording equipment showed that Asian as well as the larger African elephants exchange an extensive array of infrasonic calls. Since low-frequency sounds travel longer distances than high-frequency sounds, the discovery may explain how elephants stay in touch with one another and are able to function as close-knit family groups.
In such a group, an old female elephant gives the orders. Her sisters and daughters listen respectfully to this matriarch. But baby elephants sometimes turn a deaf ear to any call, infrasonic or otherwise. “Even when the herd is on the move,” says Focus, “if a baby elephant wants to take a nap, the whole family stops and waits until the infant wakes up before moving.” This common concern for the 200-pound (90 kg) babies is not shared by the adult male elephants. They lead a life of their own. But “when ready to mate,” adds the newsletter, infrasound seems to give the males “an uncanny ability to locate females very quickly over distances of several miles.”
Yes, infrasonic communication is another example of the wisdom of the Creator as displayed in the animal kingdom.—Psalm 104:24.