Copyright © 2009 Marissa Klymkiw


How Elephants Contact Each Other


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Elephants Use Infrasound to Communicate

Several scientists, including Katharine Payne and Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, have studied and explored infrasound in relation to elephants. Furthermore, these scientists also investigated how elephants use this low range of hearing to communicate to one another when out in the wild.

Although humans can hear certain elephant communication, some elephant rumbling is often used in the infrasound range. Payne describes infrasound as something that “people [can] feel […] because it makes the air throb.” Humans cannot hear infrasound because it is below our hearing range. Humans can hear as low as 20 to 30 hertz. So that leaves the unique elephant rumbles below 20 hertz that cannot be heard or shared with humans.

Since the infrasound range is so low in frequency, this allows for a longer sound wave. Therefore the sound can transmit further through the elephant’s environment without being broken up. Time of day and temperature can also affect the distance of the rumbling. The infrasound rumbling utilized by elephants can travel up to 10 miles through the ground.

The unique infrasound rumbling is vital to the survival of the traveling herds of elephants. This rumbling helps elephants know where other family members are located, especially if they become separated in their open environment. The special rumbling can also be used to attract mates, announce reproduction, and communicate dominance to other elephants.