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A NOVEL THEORY OF ASIAN ELEPHANT HIGH-FREQUENCY SQUEAK PRODUCTION

June 17, 2021 - Veronika C. Beeck, Gunnar Heilmann, Michael Kerscher & Angela S. Stoeger
BMC Biology

Abstract
Anatomical and cognitive adaptations to overcome morpho-mechanical limitations of laryngeal sound production, where body size and the related vocal apparatus dimensions determine the fundamental frequency, increase vocal diversity across taxa. Elephants flexibly use laryngeal and trunk-based vocalizations to form a repertoire ranging from infrasonic rumbles to higher-pitched trumpets. Moreover, they are among the few evolutionarily distantly related animals (humans, pinnipeds, cetaceans, birds) capable of imitating species-atypical sounds. Yet, their vocal plasticity has so far not been related to functions within their natural communicative system, in part because not all call types have been systematically studied. Here, we reveal how Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) produce species-specific squeaks (F0 300–2300 Hz) by using acoustic camera recordings to visualize sound emission and examining this alongside acoustic, behavioral, and morphological data across seven captive groups.