Elephants give themselves names. Groundbreaking research results

Elephants give themselves names.  Groundbreaking research results

African elephants address each other using sounds that are equivalent to human names.

So far, zoologists have identified only two species of animals that call each other by name. We are talking about bottlenose dolphins and birds of the orange-fronted conure species. They use sounds that imitate the voice of the person they were called by.

CNN reported that the results of the new study were published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Now it turns out that elephants also use this type of communication. These animals learn, recognize and use individualized calls resembling human names to address other members of their species.

The observations included female African elephants and their offspring living in the Amboseli National Park in Southern Kenya, as well as two reserves – Samburu and Buffalo Springs. Their mutual grunts were recorded and examined in the years 1986-2022.

As it turned out, the researchers distinguished almost 500 interactions between elephants, where 101 elephants were the senders of the message, and 117 were the recipients. An elephant addressed by another elephant distinguished the message and was able to determine that the call was addressed to him. At the same time, he did not pay attention to calls directed to other animals.

Rumbles, grunts and grunts

The most common type of elephant call is the rumble, which can be divided into three subcategories. So-called contact rumbles are used to call to another elephant that is far away or out of sight.

Greeting grunts are used when another elephant is within touching distance.

The study shows that an adolescent or adult female uses grunting sounds towards a young elephant that she is caring for.

Elephants come up with whatever names they want. Is this the evolution of language?

Michael Pardo, a biologist working at the University of Colorado and the author of the publication, stated that “the acoustic structure of conversations differed depending on who was the recipient of the message.” According to him, this confirms the thesis “that elephants can invent any names for themselves.”

At the same time, George Wittemyer, who participated in the research, emphasized that “elephants have the ability to think abstractly.”

The researchers point out that since humans, dolphins and elephants address individuals of their species with sounds like a name, “the need to name other individuals may have had something to do with the evolution of language.”

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