This Fact About Elephant Communication Has Blown My Mind

<span class="copyright">Claus Cramer / 500px via Getty Images</span>
Claus Cramer / 500px via Getty Images

When you think of elephants, you likely think of very large, gentle, placid creatures that have a distinct ‘trumpet’ kind of sound, but, in fact, we can’t hear most of the sounds that elephants make.

The most gentle of gentle giants actually have very deep ‘voices’, so deep in fact that they’re beyond the limits of human hearing. So, for all we know, these beasts could be yelling profanities at one another all day long, which is a great thought, tbh.

The sounds that elephants make are actually known as ‘below sounds’ and, according to ScienceAdvisor, “The creatures produce low-frequency noises between 1 to 20 Hertz, known as infrasounds, that help them keep in touch over distances as large as 10 kilometres.”

The sounds that elephants make to communicate with one another

Psychology Today explained: “Elephants’ infrasonic calls, often referred to as “rumbles,” have been recorded at frequencies as deep as 5 Hz, well below the lower limits of our hearing.

“Just because we can’t hear these sounds, though, doesn’t mean they’re not loud. An elephant’s booming rumble can reach volumes of up to 117 dB, as loud as a chainsaw or an ambulance siren.”

Cool, cool, cool.

In an adorable twist, it turns out that elephants use these noises to greet each other and to give directions.

Incredibly, their vocabulary through these rumbles is so diverse that one study found that the rumble meaning “Look out! Humans!” is different from the one meaning “Look out! Bees!”

The Elephant Listening Project revealed just how far elephant sounds can travel, saying: “Playback experiments on the savannahs of East Africa demonstrated that savannah elephants responded to each other’s vocalisations over distances of 2 km and, because it is hard to reproduce elephant calls as loudly as the elephants themselves can call [it’s estimated that] the actual detection range is be 4 km.

“This means that an elephant rumble could reach family members anywhere in a 50 area around the caller!”