Friday, June 29, 2007

"The 'listening' elephant catches the vibrations with its toes, behind which lie pads of acoustically sensitive fat."

elephants actually have two distinct ways of communicating: by ordinary soundwaves rippling through the air, and by vibrations transmitted through the ground to exquisitely sensitive elephant toes.

The seismic waves are set in motion by the same "low-frequency vocalizations" that famously rumble across African savannas, said Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell. The ground sounds travel a greater distance than airborne calls, and may help keep herd members in touch with one another across a dozen or more miles.


"They are talking through the ground," O'Connell-Rodwell said. "It's not just elephant-to-elephant noise. It's a richer system of communication than we'd thought. They can discriminate very subtle vibrations through their feet."