Advertisement

African and Asian Elephant Vocal Communication: A Cross-Species Comparison

  • Angela S. Stoeger
  • Shermin de Silva
Chapter

Abstract

Although living in substantially different habitats, African (Loxodonta sp.) and Asian (Elephas maximus) elephants are extremely social and intra-specific communication is therefore highly developed in these species. In particular, elephants are very vocal and acoustic signals play an integral part within the society of African and Asian elephants. In this chapter, we provide a cross-species comparison of the African savannah elephant (L. africana) and Asian elephant vocal communication systems, discussing the acoustic structure of various call types, examples of vocal imitation and sound production mechanisms. We aim to explore what the similarities and differences in the communication system of the two species could reveal about call functions, and the ecological conditions that have shaped these communication systems. In light of this, we suggest future comparative investigations of African and Asian elephants that may provide deeper insights into the evolutionary and cognitive bases of the complex signalling mechanisms.

Keywords

Vocal Tract Call Type Asian Elephant African Elephant Vocal Learning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Andrew RJ (1976) Use of formants in the grunts of baboons and other nonhuman primates. Ann N Y Acad Sci 280:673–693PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berg JK (1983) Vocalizations and associated behaviors of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) in captivity. Z Tierpsychol 63:63–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brainard MS, Doupe AJ (2002) What songbirds teach us about learning. Nature 417:351–358PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Charlton BD, Ellis WAH, McKinnon AJ et al (2011) Cues to body size in the formant spacing of male koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) bellows: honesty in an exaggerated trait. J Exp Biol 214:3414–3422PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. de Silva S (2010) Acoustic communication in the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus. Behaviour 147:825–852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. de Silva S, Wittemyer G (2012) A comparison of social organization in Asian elephants and African Savannah elephants. Int J Primatol 33:1125–1141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. de Silva S, Ranjeewa ADG, Kryazhimskiy S (2011) The dynamics of social networks among female Asian elephants. BMC Ecol 11(1):17. doi: 10.1186/1472-6785-11-17 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Douglas-Hamilton I (1972) On the ecology and behaviour of the African elephant. Dissertation, Oxford UniversityGoogle Scholar
  9. Fishlock V, Lee PC (2013) Forest elephants: fission–fusion and social arenas. Anim Behav 85:357–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fitch WT (1999) Acoustic exaggeration of size in birds via tracheal elongation: comparative and theoretical analyses. J Zool 248:31–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fitch WT (2000) The evolution of speech: a comparative review. Trends Cogn Sci 4:258–267PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fitch WT (2006) Production of vocalizations in mammals. In: Brown K (ed) Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 115–121Google Scholar
  13. Fitch WT, Reby D (2001) The descended larynx is not uniquely human. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B 268:1669–1675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Garstang M (2004) Long-distance, low-frequency elephant communication. J Comp Physiol 190:791–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Harris TR, Fitch WT, Goldstein LM et al (2006) Black and white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza) roars as a source of both honest and exaggerated information about body mass. Ethology 112:911–920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heffner RS, Heffner HE (1980) Hearing in the elephant (Elephas maximus). Science 208:518–529PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heffner RS, Heffner HE (1982) Hearing in the elephant (Elephas maximus): absolute sensitivity, frequency discrimination and sound localization. J Comp Psychol 96:926–944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Herbst CT, Stoeger AS, Frey R, Lohscheller J et al (2012) How low can you go – physical production mechanism of elephant infrasonic vocalization. Science 337:595–599PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Herler A, Stoeger AS (2012) Vocalizations and associated behaviour of Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) calves. Behaviour 149:575–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Janik VM, Slater PJB (1997) Vocal learning in mammals. Adv Stud Behav 26:59–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jarvis ED (2004) Learned birdsong and the neurobiology of human language. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1016:749–777PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. King LE, Soltis J, Douglas-Hamilton I et al (2010) Bee threat elicits alarm call in African elephants. PLoS One 5:e10346. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010346 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kitchen DM, Seyfarth RM, Fischer J, Cheney DL (2003) Loud calls as indicators of dominance in male baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 53:374–384Google Scholar
  24. Krause J, Dear PH, Pollacj JL et al (2006) Multiplex amplification of the mammoth mitochondrial genome and the evolution of Elephantidae. Nature 439:724–727PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Langbauer WR Jr (2000) Elephant communication. Zoo Biol 19:425–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leighty KA, Soltis J, Leong K et al (2008a) Antiphonal exchanges in African elephants (Loxodonta africana): collective response to a shared stimulus, social facilitation, or true communicative event? Behaviour 145:297–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Leighty KA, Soltis J, Wesolek CM et al (2008b) Rumble vocalizations mediate interpartner distance in African elephants, Loxodonta africana. Anim Behav 76:1601–1608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leong KM, Ortolani A, Burks K et al (2003) Quantifying acoustic and temporal characteristics of vocalizations for a group of captive African elephants Loxodonta africana. Bioacoustics 13:213–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lieberman P, Blumstein SE (1988) Speech physiology, speech perception, and acoustic phonetics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maglio VJ (1973) Origin and evolution of the Elephantidae. Trans Am Philos Soc 63:1–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marler P (1970) A comparative approach to vocal learning: song development in white-crowned sparrows. J Comp Physiol Psychol 71:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McComb K, Moss C, Sayialel S et al (2000) Unusually extensive networks of vocal recognition in African elephants. Anim Behav 59:1103–1109PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McComb K, Reby D, Baker L et al (2003) Long-distance communication of acoustic cues to social identity in African elephants. Anim Behav 66:317–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McKay GM (1973) Behavior and ecology of the Asiatic elephant in Southeastern Ceylon. Smithsonian Contrib Zool 125:1–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miall LC, Greenwood F (1878) Anatomy of the Indian elephant. Macmillan, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moss CJ (1983) Relationships and social structure of African elephants. In: Hinde RA (ed) Primate social relationships: an integrated approach. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, pp 315–325Google Scholar
  37. Nair BR, Balakrishnan R, Seelamantula CS et al (2009) Vocalizations of wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus): structural classification and social context. J Acoust Soc Am 126:2768–2778PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. O’Connell-Rodwell CE, Wood JD, Wyman M et al (2012) Antiphonal vocal bouts associated with departures in free-ranging African elephant family groups (Loxodonta africana). Bioacoustics 21:215–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ohala JJ (1984) An ethological perspective on common cross-language utilization of F0 of voice. Phonetica 41:1–16PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Payne K, Payne R (1985) Large-scale changes over 19 years in song of humpback whales in Bermuda. Z Tierpsychol 68:89–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Payne KB, Langbauer WR, Thomas EM et al (1986) Infrasonic calls of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 18:297–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Peterson GE, Barney H (1952) Control methods used in a study of the vowels. J Acoust Soc Am 24:175–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Poole JH (1987) Rutting behaviour in African elephants: the phenomenon of musth. Behaviour 102:283–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Poole JH (1989) Mate guarding, reproductive success and female choice in African elephants. Anim Behav 37:842–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Poole JH (1999) Signals and assessment in African elephants: evidence from playback experiments. Anim Behav 58:185–193PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Poole JH (2011) Behavioral contexts of elephant acoustic communication. In: Moss CJ, Croze H, Lee PC (eds) The Amboseli elephants: a long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal. The University of Chicago, Chicago, pp 125–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Poole JH, Payne K, Langbauer WRJ, Moss C (1988) The social contexts of some very low frequency calls of African elephants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22:385–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Poole JH, Tyack PL, Stoeger-Horwath AS et al (2005) Elephants are capable of vocal learning. Nature 434:455–456PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Reby D, McComb K (2003) Anatomical constraints generate honesty acoustic cues to age and weight in the roars of red deer stags. Anim Behav 65:519–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Richman B (1976) Some vocal distinctive features used by gelada monkeys. J Acoust Soc Am 60:718–724PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Riede T, Fitch WT (1999) Vocal tract length and acoustics of vocalization in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). J Exp Biol 202:2859–2867PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Riede T, Zuberbühler K (2003) The relationship between acoustic structure and semantic information in Diana monkey alarm vocalization. J Acoust Soc Am 114:1132–1142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rogaev EI, Moliaka YK, Malyarchuk BA et al (2006) Complete mitochondrial genome and phylogeny of pleistocene mammoth Mammuthus primigenius. PLoS Biol 4(3):403–410. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040073 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rohland N, Malaspinas AS, Pollack JL et al (2007) Proboscidean mitogenomics: chronology and mode of elephant evolution using mastodon as outgroup. PLoS Biol 5(8):e207. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050207 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sanvito S, Galimberti F, Miller EH (2007) Vocal signalling in male southern elephant seals is honest but imprecise. Anim Behav 73:287–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Seyfarth RM, Cheney DL (1984) The acoustic features of vervet monkey grunts. J Acoust Soc Am 75:129–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shoshani J (1998) Understanding proboscidean evolution: a formidable task. Trends Ecol Evol 13:480–487PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shoshani J (2013) Elephant In: Encyclopædia Britannica online academic edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Available via DIALOG. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/184366/elephant. Accessed 14 Feb 2013
  59. Sikes SK (1971) The natural history of the African elephant. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  60. Soltis J (2010) Vocal communication in African elephants (Loxodonta africana). Zoo Biol 29:192–209PubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Soltis J, Leong K, Savage A (2005a) African elephant vocal communication I: antiphonal calling behaviour among affiliated females. Anim Behav 70:579–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Soltis J, Leong K, Savage A (2005b) African elephant vocal communication II: rumble variation reflects individual identity and emotional state of callers. Anim Behav 70:589–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Soltis P, Leighty KA, Wesolek CM et al (2009) The expression of affect in African elephants (Loxodonta africana) rumble vocalizations. J Comp Psychol 123:222–225PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Soltis J, Blowers TE, Savage A (2011) Measuring positive and negative affect in the voiced sounds of African elephants (Loxodonta africana). J Acoust Soc Am 129:1059–66PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stoeger AS, Charlton BD, Kratochvil H et al (2011) Vocal cues indicate level of arousal in infant African elephant roars. J Acoust Soc Am 130:1700–1710PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Stoeger AS, Heilmann G, Zeppelzauer M et al (2012a) Visualizing sound emission of elephant vocalizations: evidence for two rumble production types. PLoS One 7(11):e48907. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048907 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Stoeger AS, Mietchen D, Oh S et al (2012b) An Asian elephant imitates human speech. Curr Biol 22:1–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Stoeger-Horwath AS, Stoeger S, Schwammer HM et al (2007) Call repertoire of infant African elephants: first insights into the early vocal ontogeny. J Acoust Soc Am 121:3922–3931PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Taylor AM, Reby D (2010) The contribution of source – filter theory to mammal vocal communication. J Zool 280:221–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Turkalo A (2001) Forest elephant behavior and ecology: observations from the Dzanga saline. In: Weber W, White LJT, Vedder A, Naughton-Treves L (eds) African rainforest ecology and conservation. Yale University Press, New Haven, pp 207–213Google Scholar
  71. Tyack PL (2003) Dolphins communicate about individual-specific social relationships. In: de Waal F, Tyack PL (eds) Animal social complexity: intelligence, culture and individualized societies. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp 342–361Google Scholar
  72. Tyack PL (2008) Convergence of calls as animals form social bonds, active compensation for noisy communication channels, and the evolution of vocal learning in mammals. J Comp Psychol 122:319–331PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Vannoni E, McElligott AG (2008) Low frequency groans indicate larger and more dominant fallow deer (Dama dama) males. PLoS One 3(9):e3113. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003113 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Volodin IA, Lapshina EN, Volodina EV et al (2011) Nasal and oral calls in juvenile Goitred gazelles (Gazella subgutturosa) and their potential to encode sex and identity. Ethology 117:294–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Weissengruber GE, Forstenpointner G, Peters G et al (2002) Hyoid apparatus and pharynx in the lion (Panthera leo), jaguar (Panthera onca), tiger (Panthera tigris), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and domestic cat (Felis silvestris f. catus). J Anat 201:195–209PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wemmer C, Mishra HR (1982) Observational learning by an Asiatic elephant of an unusual sound production method. Mammalia 46:556–557Google Scholar
  77. Wittemeyer G, Douglas-Hamilton I, Getz WM (2005) The socioecology of elephants: analysis of the processes creating multitiered social structures. Anim Behav 69:1357–1371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wood JD, McCowan B, Langbauer WR et al (2005) Classification of African elephant Loxodonta africana rumbles using acoustic parameters and cluster analysis. Bioacoustics 15:143–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.EFECTColombo 5Sri Lanka

Personalised recommendations