Elephants speak to family and friends using individual “names.”

Humans are somewhat unique as a species because we refer to each other by name. This process is learned, using vocal tags to identify another individual; People are not born knowing the personal names of all their family and social contacts. While dolphins and parrots “broadcast” their identity to other members of their species using signature calls that are then imitated, humans do not imitate them.

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Colorado State University’s (CSU) Warner College of Natural Resources, Conservation Group Save the elephantsAnd Elephant sounds She asserted that wild African elephants communicate in a manner similar to humans, addressing each other with specific individual “name-like” calls.

“Dolphins and parrots call each other by name by imitating the addressee’s signature call,” said Michael Pardo, study leader and corresponding author. “In contrast, our data suggest that elephants do not rely on imitation of recipient calls to address each other, which is very similar to the way human names work.”

Human language is arbitrary because the words we use are just labels. The basic meaning cannot be deduced from the form of the word. There is nothing in a “table,” for example, that makes it a table; It’s just an agreed-upon term. Because it is not imitation, arbitrary communication is more cognitively demanding.

“If all we could do was make sounds that sounded like what we were talking about, that would greatly limit our ability to communicate,” said George Whitmire, a professor at California State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources and chair of the Scientific Council of Save the World. Elephants, the study’s senior author.

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When it comes to self-identification, names are also random. The researchers say that elephants’ use of random vocal tags suggests that they may be capable of creative and abstract thinking.

A CSU study found that elephants have names like humans

Elephants and humans are highly communicative animals that live within a complex social network. Like humans, elephants function in family units, social groups, and larger clan structures. As with humans, this complexity likely prompted the need to name other elephants, the researchers say.

“We likely have similar pressures, largely from complex social interactions,” Whitmire said. “That’s one of the exciting things about this study; it gives us insight into the possible motivations behind why we evolved these abilities.”

Elephants make a range of sounds, from the familiar trumpet to a low growl, spanning a wide frequency. Some of them are outside the range of human hearing. Curt Freestrup, a research scientist at California State University’s Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering, developed a signal processing technique to detect subtle differences in calls. He and Pardo then trained a machine learning model to determine which elephant the call was correctly directed to based solely on its vocal characteristics. .

“Our discovery that elephants do not simply mimic the sound associated with the individual they are calling was most interesting,” Freestrup said. “The ability to use random vocal labels for other individuals suggests that there may be other types of labels or descriptions in elephant calls.”

The elephants responded enthusiastically to recorded calls from family and friends when they were played back to them by calling them back or approaching the loudspeaker. They reacted less enthusiastically when the call was directed to other groups of elephants, indicating that they recognized their names.

“They may have been temporarily confused by the reboot, but they eventually dismissed it as a strange event and went on with their lives,” Pardo said.

The researchers found that it is more common for elephants to call each other by name over long distances or for adult elephants to talk to calves.

More data is needed before researchers can isolate individual names within the calls or determine whether elephants are naming other things such as food, water, and places. So, it will be many years before we can talk to these majestic animals.

“Unfortunately, we can’t have them speak into microphones,” Whitmire said.

The study was published in the journal Nature ecology and evolution.

source: CSU Warner College of Natural Resources

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