Elephant’s never forget a voice apparently!
In this fascinating piece of science, elephant researchers have figured out that the these giant walking tanks are able to pick out different groups of people based on their voices. The researchers from the University of Sussex and Amboseli Elephant Research Project recently published their work in Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.
The structure of the study was this.
1) Record some people talking. They got two separate groups of people in the region that the elephants lives. One group hunted them, the other did not.
2) Play the recordings of the people.
3) See what the elephants do.
What the researchers found was that the elephants would behave differently when listening to the different groups.
“Our results demonstrate that elephants can reliably discriminate between two different ethnic groups that differ in the level of threat they represent, significantly increasing their probability of defensive bunching and investigative smelling following playbacks of Maasai voices [NOTE: The Maasai were the one who hunted the elephants] . Moreover, these responses were specific to the sex and age of Maasai presented, with the voices of Maasai women and boys, subcategories that would generally pose little threat, significantly less likely to produce these behavioral responses.”
Don’t think I don’t know you’re there man! You see these big ass ears! I know you’re there!
But whats is astounding, as stated above is that they could pick out the differences between the men, women, and children! That fact that an animal has become so attuned to our linguistic cues is really quite fascinating.
It is important to note though, this does not mean that the elephants are picking up on human LANGUAGE, rather they are most likely picking up on what are called prosody or prosodic cues.
Prosody in a nut shell are basically all of the none linguistic things that we do in language. For example, when you ask a question you speak differently than if you were to say the same word as a statement. To demonstrate, try saying both of the following:
It was you that ate the last Lunchables lunch.
It was you that ate the last Lunchables lunch?
That shit’s not funny, you DO NOT steal a Lunchable unless you want to get hurt!
When you said it, it was a little different right? That difference is prosody. Cues like these, and others, a most likely what the elephants are listening for and that is how they are able to differentiate between the people.
So remember, next time you go out hunting elephants that they will probably remember you. Missing is not recommended, not unless you want them to remember you, and stomp your ass into a fine pulpy mess next time you see them.