Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Elephants have word for 'bee-ware'

Date:
April 28, 2010
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
For the first time elephants have been found to produce an alarm call associated with the threat of bees, and have been shown to retreat when a recording of the call is played even when there are no bees around.

Elephants run from bee sounds making 'bee rumble'.
Credit: OU/Lucy King

For the first time elephants have been found to produce an alarm call associated with the threat of bees, and have been shown to retreat when a recording of the call is played even when there are no bees around.

A team of scientists from Oxford University, Save the Elephants, and Disney's Animal Kingdom, made the discovery as part of an ongoing study of elephants in Kenya. They report their results in the journal PLoS One.

'In our experiments we played the sound of angry bees to elephant families and studied their reaction,' said Lucy King of Oxford University's Department of Zoology and charity Save the Elephants, who led the research. 'Importantly we discovered elephants not only flee from the buzzing sound but make a unique 'rumbling' call as well as shaking their heads.'

The team then looked to isolate the specific acoustic qualities associated with this rumbling call and played the sounds back to the elephants to confirm that the recorded call triggered the elephants' decision to flee even when there was no buzzing and no sign of any bees.

'We tested this hypothesis using both an original recording of the call, a recording identical to this but with the frequency shifted so it resembled a typical response to white noise, and another elephant rumble as a control,' said King. 'The results were dramatic: six out of ten elephant families fled from the loud speaker when we played the 'bee rumble' compared to just two when we played a control rumble and one with the frequency-shifted call. Moreover, we also found that the elephants moved away much further when they heard the 'bee' alarm call than the other rumbles.'

The researchers believe such calls may be an emotional response to a threat, a way to coordinate group movements and warn nearby elephants -- or even a way of teaching inexperienced and vulnerable young elephants to beware. Further work is needed to confirm whether the rumble call is used for other kinds of threats, not just bees.

'The calls also give tantalising clues that elephants may produce different sounds in the same way that humans produce different vowels, by altering the position of their tongues and lips,' said Dr Joseph Soltis of Disney's Animal Kingdom. 'It's even possible that, rather like with human language, this enables them to give superficially similar-sounding calls very different meanings.'

Earlier Oxford University research found that elephants avoid bee hives in the wild and will also flee from the recorded sound of angry bees. In 2009 a pilot study led by King showed that a fence made out of beehives wired together significantly reduced crop raids by elephants. The team hopes that the new findings could help develop new ways to defuse potential conflicts between humans and elephants.

Despite their thick hides adult elephants can be stung around their eyes or up their trunks, whilst calves could potentially be killed by a swarm of stinging bees as they have yet to develop this thick protective skin.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lucy E. King, Joseph Soltis, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Anne Savage, Fritz Vollrath, Karen McComb. Bee Threat Elicits Alarm Call in African Elephants. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (4): e10346 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010346

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Elephants have word for 'bee-ware'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427093106.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2010, April 28). Elephants have word for 'bee-ware'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427093106.htm
University of Oxford. "Elephants have word for 'bee-ware'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427093106.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins