Animal behaviour: elephants are capable of vocal learning

Nature. 2005 Mar 24;434(7032):455-6. doi: 10.1038/434455a.


There are a few mammalian species that can modify their vocalizations in response to auditory experience--for example, some marine mammals use vocal imitation for reproductive advertisement, as birds sometimes do. Here we describe two examples of vocal imitation by African savannah elephants, Loxodonta africana, a terrestrial mammal that lives in a complex fission-fusion society. Our findings favour a role for vocal imitation that has already been proposed for primates, birds, bats and marine mammals: it is a useful form of acoustic communication that helps to maintain individual-specific bonds within changing social groupings.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Africa
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Automobiles
  • Elephants / physiology*
  • Female
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Sound*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*