Elephant Seismic Detection – Hearing

Music
Ambience: elephant rumble

Listen carefully, and as long you’re not driving, you might even put your hands up against the speakers and “feel” the sound. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Elephants make low frequency rumbling calls, like the one we’re listening to right now, and scientists think other elephants can detect these sounds by sensing the vibration. Stanford research associate Caitlin O’Connell Rodwell says that she’s witnessed some strange elephant behavior that led her to believe the animals were communicating through the ground.

“When I was recording elephant vocalizations in the wild, I noticed that they would shift their feet, sometimes put their trunk on the ground, prior to the arrival of another herd or some kind of event that would create a seismic disturbance, such as a vehicle or an airplane. And they did this in a coordinated fashion, within a group. And this made me think that maybe they could detect seismic components of other herd rumbles.”

And how the elephants actually use their bodies to “listen” to these rumbles is still something of a mystery.

“We think that elephants are probably picking up these signals through their feet. They’re picking them up through their toenails via bone conduction, or sensing it with their nerves. There’s some receptors in the trunk of an elephant that make it very sensitive to vibrations. It means that elephants may be able to communicate at much greater distances than we thought previously. So, this has important implications for our understanding of how animals, how elephants, how large mammals might be communicating. But also as to the conservation of these animals and even how they’re treated in captivity, if they are so sensitive to vibrations.”

One more rumble, here we go. Did you feel it? Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Elephant Seismic Detection - Hearing

An elephant listens with... its toenails?!
Air Date:09/21/2011
Scientist:
Transcript:

Music
Ambience: elephant rumble

Listen carefully, and as long you're not driving, you might even put your hands up against the speakers and "feel" the sound. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Elephants make low frequency rumbling calls, like the one we're listening to right now, and scientists think other elephants can detect these sounds by sensing the vibration. Stanford research associate Caitlin O'Connell Rodwell says that she's witnessed some strange elephant behavior that led her to believe the animals were communicating through the ground.

"When I was recording elephant vocalizations in the wild, I noticed that they would shift their feet, sometimes put their trunk on the ground, prior to the arrival of another herd or some kind of event that would create a seismic disturbance, such as a vehicle or an airplane. And they did this in a coordinated fashion, within a group. And this made me think that maybe they could detect seismic components of other herd rumbles."

And how the elephants actually use their bodies to "listen" to these rumbles is still something of a mystery.

"We think that elephants are probably picking up these signals through their feet. They're picking them up through their toenails via bone conduction, or sensing it with their nerves. There's some receptors in the trunk of an elephant that make it very sensitive to vibrations. It means that elephants may be able to communicate at much greater distances than we thought previously. So, this has important implications for our understanding of how animals, how elephants, how large mammals might be communicating. But also as to the conservation of these animals and even how they're treated in captivity, if they are so sensitive to vibrations."

One more rumble, here we go. Did you feel it? Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music