Most of us are familiar with the calls of an elephant. They range from the familiar trumpet call (a favourite of the old Tarzan films) to a low-frequency rumble that sounds – at least to our human ears - something akin to a deep growl.

These forms of communication are an essential part of their social behaviour and this enables a herd to keep track of relatives, defend territories and alert other elephants to danger.

It has now been discovered that elephants can produce an infrasonic sound from 1- 20Hz – a range that is inaudible to humans - and these sounds can travel over huge distances.

They can also produce what is known as a ‘seismic’ signal which is like mini earthquake allowing elephants to position each other in relation to their own location.

Using specially-developed acoustic software, researchers at San Diego Zoo in the US have tried to uncover the secret language of the elephant by deciphering these sounds and have come up with a fascinating new insight into the workings of the herd.

Early results have shown that pregnant females - in the last few days of their gestation period – begin to manipulate the low frequency range of their calls.

This auditory communication alerts the rest of the herd of the imminent birth, and at the appropriate time they react by forming a barrier around the mother to protect her and the newly born calf from potential predators at this critical time.

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