4pAB1. A survey of research on low-frequency acoustic communication in elephants.

Session: Thursday Afternoon, June 19

Author: Katharine Payne
Location: Bioacoust. Res. Program, Cornell Lab. of Ornithology, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY 14850


Research projects by K. Payne, W. Langbauer, E. Thomas, and J. Poole have shown that Asian and African elephants make powerful infrasonic calls, some of which are used in long-distance communication. Although full classification has not been achieved, some of these calls are social, others reproductive; behavioral responses show individual recognition. Playback experiments yielded a measure of the distances over which conspecifics respond during daylight hours (Langbauer et al.) and of the social information imbedded in certain clearly definable calls (K. McCoun). Long-distance communication appears to be implicated in the coordinated movements between separated elephant families; a field study using radio collars with implanted voice-activated microphones yielded suggestive results (Langbauer et al.). A meteorological study by meteorologists M. Garstang and D. Larom led them to predict large-scale diurnal fluctuations in low-frequency sound propagation in dry season savannas. They and Payne plan to collaborate in research on the relation between these phenomena and calling behaviors of savanna animals. [Support for the presenter's projects came from World Wildlife, National Geographic, NSF, and a Guggenheim fellowship.]

ASA 133rd meeting - Penn State, June 1997