Animal behaviour: elephants are capable of vocal learning. Academic Article uri icon


  • There are a few mammalian species that can modify their vocalizations in response to auditory experience--for example, some marine mammals use vocal imitation for reproductive advertisement, as birds sometimes do. Here we describe two examples of vocal imitation by African savannah elephants, Loxodonta africana, a terrestrial mammal that lives in a complex fission-fusion society. Our findings favour a role for vocal imitation that has already been proposed for primates, birds, bats and marine mammals: it is a useful form of acoustic communication that helps to maintain individual-specific bonds within changing social groupings.

publication date

  • March 24, 2005