- Large repertoire of vocalizations, including:
- Low frequency, long distance calls to maintain contact between roving individuals or groups
- Close range, high pitched calls indicate mood
- Loud trumpeting indicates alarm, surprise
- Low snorts signal changes in immediate environment, alerting herd.
- Family members often touch while standing; may rub with a foot or slap with the trunk
- Trunks are used in greeting: A lower-ranking animal will insert its trunk tip into the other’s mouth
- Trunk may be held out to an approaching elephant as a greeting
- Trunk is also used in caressing, twining, wrestling, and checking reproductive status
- Mothers may guide their calf by gripping its tail.
- Signal for hormonal state:
- Bull's musth walk - head erect, ears wide, ear waves of one ear, a low pulsing growl
- Trunk curling and uncurling
- Urine dribble
- Cow's estrous walk - looking back over shoulder as walk away.
Signals for apprehension/submission
- Jaw out, touching one's own temporal gland or face
- Trunk twitching back and forth
- Swaying side to side
- Backing into side of more dominant animal.
- Rely heavily on long lasting chemical cues, which travel over short or long distances
- Lift trunks to detect wind-borne scents for first clues to sources of danger
- Survival depends on reading scents of landscapes, pathways, mineral and salt sources, waterholes
- Even after long separations, chemical cues help re-establish kin and friendship bonds
- Sniff breath, mouths, temporal glands, genitals, urine and dung to determine emotional and physiological states of others.
- Urine alone contains several thousand chemical compounds packed with messages
- Sex pheromones allow determination of fitness and location of opposite sex.
- Information from environment via low frequency ground vibrations may be first detected by elephant's feet and trunk tip
- Distant thunderstorms, footsteps of running animals, vocalizations, that travel through ground
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