Seismic waves from elephant vocalizations: A possible communication mode?
Article first published online: 2 JUN 2004
Copyright 2004 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 31, Issue 11, June 2004
How to Cite
2004), Seismic waves from elephant vocalizations: A possible communication mode? Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L11602, doi:10.1029/2004GL019671., , and (
- Issue published online: 2 JUN 2004
- Article first published online: 2 JUN 2004
- Manuscript Accepted: 26 APR 2004
- Manuscript Revised: 19 APR 2004
- Manuscript Received: 6 FEB 2004
 We conducted experiments with trained African elephants that show that low-frequency elephant vocalizations produce Rayleigh waves. We model a potential range for these seismic waves, under ideal conditions, of c. 2 km. In appropriate conditions, surface waves from an elephant's infrasonic vocalizations might propagate further than airborne sound and provide advantages over acoustic communication. However, if we use the detection capabilities of the human ear as a benchmark for the signal-detection thresholds of elephants, our estimates of attenuation and ambient seismic noise suggest that the seismic detection range is unlikely to exceed the acoustic detection range under normal atmospheric conditions. We conclude that elephants may benefit from seismic detection in circumstances where the range of acoustic communication is limited, or in cases where multimodal communication is advantageous. Given our current understanding, elephants are unlikely to rely on seismic waves as their primary mode for long-range communication.