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Scientists decode 'secret' language used by elephants

You don't have to sit through Dumbo and The Jungle Book to stumble upon a talking elephant: researchers in the US have discovered that the world's largest land mammals already communicate via a highly advanced "secret" language.

A team from San Diego Zoo spent months monitoring conversations between its resident herd of African elephants. They now believe the animals communicate far more often than was previously thought, and are capable of exchanging relatively complex pieces of information. In addition to their trumpet call, elephants also emit a more subtle growl or rumble. A detailed analysis of that sound has revealed that two-thirds of it is transmitted at frequencies too low to be picked out by the human ear.

"What we have found is essentially a sort of secret vocabulary," said Matt Anderson, who led the project. "It falls very low in the sound spectrum. What it shows us is potentially very exciting.

"Researchers have always thought that elephants were able to exchange a few simple words, but by looking at the structure of these rumbles we're now finding that their vocabulary is actually much larger and more complex than people previously realised."

It was found that female elephants are more prone to enjoying chit-chat than male counterparts. A creature's ranking in the herd also tends to play a role in how noisy they are.

hnews@herald.ie


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