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The elephants seem to invent names for each other

Two baby elephants greet each other in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve

George Witmeyer

Elephants may be the only animals besides humans that can give each other arbitrary names, according to machine learning analysis of recordings.

Analysis found that some calls came from african savanna elephant (African tusks) appears to contain similarly named components specific to certain individuals. What’s more, these people knew their names and responded more strongly than others when calls to them were played on the speakers.

“I noticed years ago that when an elephant made a contact rumble, I would see one of the elephants in the group raise its head, listen and give an answer,” Joyce Poole (Joyce Poole) said. Voice of Elephant, a small organization that studies elephants and aims to protect them. “The rest of the people seemed to be missing the elephant. So I do wonder if these calls were directed at a specific individual.

More than 600 recordings made by Poole and others have now been analyzed Michael Pardo Colorado State University and colleagues. The recordings include contact rumbles made when the recipient is out of sight, and greeting rumbles made when one elephant approaches another. The researchers knew who was calling and responding in each case.

In a quarter of the cases, the software the team created was able to predict which person was being addressed, significantly better than chance.

The researchers then played some rumbles to pairs of elephants, including the “designated” elephant. They found that the named elephants responded more strongly: they approached the speaker faster, responded with calls faster, and made more calls overall than other unnamed individuals.

Dolphins and several species of birds have been shown to call to specific individuals in the following ways: imitate the sounds made by the animals they call. However, although Poole reported in 2005 Elephants can learn to imitate soundsthe team found no evidence of elephants imitating each other.

In other words, they appear to use arbitrary sounds as names, just like humans, Poole said.

What the analysis did not reveal was whether different elephants had the same name for a particular individual. Each elephant probably has its own set of names.

“For us, we have formal names, but different people may refer to the same person by different nicknames,” Poole said. “So it could be something like that. I guess we don’t know yet.

“This is a very interesting study, with multiple lines of evidence suggesting that African elephants not only make individual-specific sounds (which are common among many species), but more importantly, when they hear another elephant They react in specific ways when an individual’s specific sound is emitted. Daniel Blumstein at UCLA.

“The idea that elephants can use specific sounds to attract specific individuals is novel, exciting and opens the door to a more nuanced understanding of the rich social lives of these animals,” he said.

“I found the results to be very reasonable,” said thorsten balsby at Aarhus University, Denmark.

Balsby studied parrots that lived in larger groups. He noted that in a large population of hundreds or thousands of people, learning names would be very difficult. “Addressing other people through imitation is a simpler solution that doesn’t require prior interaction,” he said.

Balsby said a 2005 study reported that captive green-rumped parrots “vocally mark” or name their companions. But they do this through different versions of their contact numbers. “So it’s probably not as random as the elephant,” he said.

Poole believes her research is just the beginning of understanding elephant communication. “The complexities of elephant communication will take some time to unravel, so I think we’ll have many more exciting discoveries to make in the coming years,” she said.

For example, she suspects the statues may also use place names. “When they say ‘let’s go,’ they’re indicating to others in the group the direction they want to go, and they may actually be saying exactly where they want to go,” Poole said.

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