Q:

How do elephants communicate?

A:

Quick Answer

Elephants communicate primarily through vocal calls, though they also use other important methods. These include tactile behaviors, such as touching, as well as synchronized freezing. Elephants also communicate through the secretion of specific chemicals that other herd members can pick up through the elephant's advanced sense of smell.

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Full Answer

Elephants use vocal calls in a wide variety of scenarios, including care for youngsters, resolving disputes and mustering the herd for march. Elephants can recognize the individual calls of hundreds of other elephants from a half-mile away, and many of the sounds created by elephants exist in a range unavailable to human ears, according to PBS.

In the sensual range of expression, touch is vital to the health of elephant communities with the trunk being the primary instrument. Use of the trunk can convey affection, heighten connection during mating and reinforce social bonds. Elephants display attention to the dead by using their trunks to touch the bones and remains of other elephants.

Synchronized freezing is a phenomenon whereby elephants collectively stop and peak their senses, thus allowing them to probe the environment for unfamiliar or threatening noises and smells. Elephants also use a wide variety of postures to transmit information. While the cause of ear flapping can be something as pragmatic as fanning in hot weather, it can also indicate an elephant's happiness or joy. Additionally, wide-spread ears and an elevated head may display high social status, whereas a socially subordinate elephant carries its head down and ears pinned. Finally, a raised tail and chin may communicate fear or alarm to the group, such as in the presence of a predator.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why are elephants so big?

    A:

    Elephants evolved to their current size over the course of tens of millions of years; this size adaptation is likely a survival mechanism because a full-sized, adult elephant faces very little threat from predators, though baby elephants are much more vulnerable to predation from big cats such as lions and wild dogs. There have been cases in which adult elephants have fallen victim to attack from big cats, but these cases are rare. The elephant is the largest known land animal, but scientists believe that this massive mammal evolved from a creature that is roughly the size of a small rodent.

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  • Q:

    What eats elephants?

    A:

    Tigers and lions occasionally eat elephants, though attacks are rare. Since the repercussions of a failed attack are fierce, the big cats tend to only prey on very weak and young elephants. Scavengers, such as hyenas, often feed on dead or dying elephants.

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  • Q:

    What do elephants look like?

    A:

    Elephants are gray in color and have a long trunk that has several uses, including breathing and feeding. They are the largest land mammals on Earth.

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  • Q:

    How do elephants sleep?

    A:

    Elephants take short naps standing up, but lie down when sleeping for more than a couple of hours. The average elephant sleeps for approximately four hours at a time, and spends at least half of that time lying down on its side.

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