Elephants are also called by their name (like humans): the study in “Nature”

Elephants also call each other by name, like humans. This is the discovery made by some scientists from Colorado State University and the study was published in the scientific journal. Nature. For the researchers, there is evidence “that wild African elephants address each other with specific calls, probably without relying on imitation of the addressee”, as happens with dolphins and parrots, we read in the study premises. This would “radically expand the expressive power of language” and this discovery could have important implications for its evolution.


The most common type of call from elephants is “trumming,” researchers point out. That is to say a low frequency sound, rich in harmonies and produced in most cases in different contexts. To reestablish contact, in this case we speak of a “contact trumpet”. But there are also the “greeting trumpets” when one elephant approaches another. And finally, the “care trumpets”, emanating from a female elephant while breastfeeding. Scientists have collected the different sounds emanating from wild elephants in the African savannah to “evaluate – we read – whether they contain individual vocal labels”, that is to say different from each other.

The 470 sounds made by elephants

More specifically, the researchers sifted through recordings of vocalizations emitted by elephants in the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya and in Amboseli Park between 1986 and 2022. In total, 470 sounds emitted by 101 elephants and addressed to 107 specimens. The research “shows not only that elephants use vocalizations specific to each individual, but that they recognize and respond to calls directed to them while ignoring those directed at others,” said the lead author of the study. study, Michael Pardo. Guardian. “The evidence so far that elephants use non-imitative sounds to identify others indicates that they have a capacity for abstract thought,” said another author, George Wittemyer. And despite their differences, humans and elephants share many things, such as “extended family units with rich social lives, supported by highly developed brains,” concluded the CEO of Let's save the elephantsFrank Pope.

Cover photo: 32046828 © Linetesimoesphotography | Dreamstime.com

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