Elephants Have Been Found to Give Each Other Names in the Form of Rumbling Sounds

group of elephants

Photo: zambezi/Depositphotos

For humans, naming animals comes almost naturally. It may be done either out of a need to organize them and give them a sort of identifier, or simply out of endearment. But it turns out that an animal species has been found to assign names to one another—a breakthrough find in the field of zoology. According to researchers, African savannah elephants have names for each other in the form of low, rumbling sounds.

The scientists who study the elephants at some of Kenya's elephant reserves noticed that the animals appeared to call to each other with individual names—that is, unique sounds specific to individuals in their social groups. But the indication of them being a name came from recipients responding accordingly to the call.

For the study, the researchers recorded elephant calls in two areas of Kenya—527 sounds in the Samburu ecosystem in the north and and 98 calls in the Amboseli National Park in the south. To determine which vocalizations were specific to an individual, the team singled out which members of groups of female elephants and their offspring had become separated from their herd when a sound was produced or was approached when the call was made. In the end, the scientists identified rumbles specific to 119 individuals.

While the elephant rumbles may sound similar upon first listen, the researchers have trained an AI to make out the subtle differences in each vocalization. So far, they've correctly identified the receivers of 20.3% of the 625 recorded calls. Interestingly, the calls were not generic sounds aimed at mothers or babies, but rather distinct to the receiver. In groups, sounds from different callers to the same receiver were similar, creating a more visible pattern than the one observed in simple messages between one caller and one receiver. More so, the scientists discovered that elephants responded more strongly to recordings of calls originally addressed to them than to calls addressed to other elephants, a reaction very similar to that of a name.

These trailblazing findings make elephants the first non-human animals to give each other names. And while the research still has a long way to go, zoologists are excited about the insights this may bring in terms of animal communication. Not only may it be much more complex than ever thought, but it may also be one thing shaping their communities in ways we never imagined.

According to researchers, African savannah elephants have names for each other in the form of low, rumbling sounds. This makes them the first non-human animals to give each other names.

group of elephants

Photo: gattophotos/Depositphotos

h/t: [Live Science]

Related Articles:

Photographer Wins Prize for Heartbreaking Story About the Plight of Endangered Forest Elephants

Photographer Shares How a Community in Kenya Came Together to Help Orphaned Elephants [Interview]

Herd of Wild Elephants Take an Adorable Nap Together After 300-Mile Journey

Photographer Showcases the Majestic Beauty of Elephants To Help in Their Conservation [Interview]

Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content