How do elephants communicate?

Enormous elephants rely on contact with others to survive, and these clever giants are masters of communicating in ways of which humans could never dream. Using a mixture of vocalizations, chemical signals, touches and stamps, elephants can exchange information with others as far away as 10km.

Vocalisation is very important for elephants to chat with a nearby neighbour, and with elephants much further away. They can produce low-frequency sounds that researchers call ‘rumbles’ that can be heard within a whopping 10km radius. These sounds reach over 100dB, which is louder than a speeding express train!

It’s important for elephants to communicate over long distances because they spread out over vast areas of grassland and to prevent competition for food and water on their patch elephants can announce their presence. Also, as females are able to get pregnant in only four days of each year being able to contact males for miles around helps attract a mate.

An elephant’s trunk also plays a huge role in communication. It acts like an arm, and elephants can touch one another with their trunks to communicate. As the trunk of an elephant is so similar to an arm, the tip is called the finger and has been found to share properties with the lips of monkeys. It is very sensitive to chemicals and works together with a special organ in the mouth to expertly detect different substances. Chemicals that elephants produce let others know they are prepared to mate and the stronger these secretions get, the more ready the elephant is.

Vibrations are another astonishing way elephants exchange information. The trunks and feet of elephants have fancy cells called Pacinian corpuscules that can detect vibrations, so they can pick up signals from the stomping feet of others. They will bang their feet and trunks on the ground to produce vibrations that can be easily detected by cells in the skin of nearby elephants.

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