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Elephants imitate sounds as a form of social communication

with similar social systems as elephants use vocal imitation to maintain individual-specific relationships, "study co-author Stephanie Watwood of WHOI said. "Our study suggests that elephants may be using their vocal learning abilities in a similar manner, and opens a fascinating new area for research on how elephants use vocal learning."

Vocal learning is important because it enables an open communication system in which animals and humans develop new signals with shared associations. Recent playback experiments conducted by Karen McComb of Sussex University have shown that elephants can remember the calls of a large number of other elephants. The new findings suggest that elephants, like parrots, bats, and dolphins, may use vocal learning to develop new communication signals for maintaining complex individual-specific social relationships, study co-author Peter Tyack of WHOI said. Tyack has studied the social behavior and acoustics signals of marine mammals, especially dolphins and whales, for decades.

"It is exciting to see that African savannah elephants follow a pattern we've seen in other terrestrial and aquatic species capable of vocal learning, "Tyack said. "Vocal learning should also occur in other species where long-lived social bonds are based on individual relationships and where members of a group separate and reunite over time."


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Source:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


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