Vocal Learning in Elephants: Neural Bases and Adaptive Context

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2014 Oct;28:101-7. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2014.07.001. Epub 2014 Jul 23.


In the last decade clear evidence has accumulated that elephants are capable of vocal production learning. Examples of vocal imitation are documented in African (Loxodonta africana) and Asian (Elephas maximus) elephants, but little is known about the function of vocal learning within the natural communication systems of either species. We are also just starting to identify the neural basis of elephant vocalizations. The African elephant diencephalon and brainstem possess specializations related to aspects of neural information processing in the motor system (affecting the timing and learning of trunk movements) and the auditory and vocalization system. Comparative interdisciplinary (from behavioral to neuroanatomical) studies are strongly warranted to increase our understanding of both vocal learning and vocal behavior in elephants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Elephants / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*