Listening with their feet

Elephants seem to. And they have warning calls that seem to be culturally transmitted rather than hard-wired.

According to Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell of Stanford, the trumpeting of African elephants is literally loud enough to shake the ground, and they have vibration-sensitive cells in their feet. That allows them to communicate over 2-4 kilometer distances.

According to O’Connell-Rodwell’s talk at today’s UCLA Behavior, Evolution, and Culture lunch, close observation shows remarkably complex behavior patterns among elephants, some of them reflecting cultural transmission. Namibian elephants respond to one another’s warning calls (recorded and played back through the ground by scientists), but ignore warning calls from Kenyan elephants.

Amazing, no?

Text of O’Connell-Rodwell paper

BEC calendar with links to talks

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: