Wild elephant (Loxodonta africana) breeding herds respond to artificially transmitted seismic stimuli
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Seismic communication is known to be utilized in insects, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals, but its use has not yet been documented in large mammals. Elephants produce low-frequency vocalizations, and these vocalizations have seismic components that propagate in the ground, but it has not yet been demonstrated that elephants can detect or interpret these seismic signals. In this study, we played back seismic replicates of elephant alarm vocalizations to herds of wild African elephants in their natural environment and observed significant behavioral changes indicating that they had detected these signals. Seismic communication may provide an important complement to existing communication modes used by elephants. Seismic sensitivity may also provide elephants with an additional modality for sensing important environmental cues such as changes in weather patterns or seismic disturbances.
KeywordsElephant seismic communication Loxodonta africana
We would like to acknowledge the National Geographic Society, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Seaver Institute, Stanford University’s Morrison Institute and Bio-X Interdisciplinary Research award, as well as University of California at Davis internal grants. We would also like to acknowledge the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, particularly Pauline Lindeque for supporting the project, Conrad Brain for his field assistance, and Ginger Mauney for her logistical support. We thank the Namibia Nature Foundation for ground and administrative support in Namibia. We thank Heinrich Steuber of SolTec, c.c., in Windhoek, Namibia for his generous support. We also acknowledge the videography of Lianna Jarecki, the statistical consultation of Neil Willits, software advice of Joe Olson, and technical support of John McCormack of Rainbow Electronics and Marvin Clamme of The Guitammer Company. We thank Denise Nicholas for her input on video analysis. We would also like to thank Ben Hart, Karen McComb, and Don Owings for their helpful comments on earlier manuscripts.
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