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Elephants "Hear" Warnings With Their Feet, Study Confirms

lundi 27 mars 2006

When African elephants stomp and trumpet as a predator approaches, other distant elephants can get the news by feeling the ground rumble, a team of scientists recently confirmed.

The vocalizations and foot stomps resonate at a frequency that elephants can detect in the ground, according to Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, a biologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

She and her colleagues played the ground-shaking component of these vocalizations to elephants gathered around a watering hole in Etosha National Park in Namibia.

"What we saw was they bunch into a tighter group, orient in the direction of where the signal is coming from, and then leave the area much sooner than they would if nothing was played," O’Connell-Rodwell said.

These behaviors are indications that the elephants detected the call and interpreted it as a warning, she added.

O’Connell-Rodwell and her colleagues reported the finding this month in the online edition of the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

O’Connell-Rodwell first theorized that elephants use vibrations to communicate in 1992, but this is the first scientific evidence to support her theory.

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