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Monday, August 6

Elephants sing just like humans, find a group of researchers

If you think only birds and humans sing, you are wrong.  A group of scientists has discovered that elephants also sing just like humans.  They have also found that you may not beat them in singling low-pitch, since elephant songs are often infrasonic, at 20 Hertz or below frequency. The infrasonic rumble, according to the scientists, is hardly audible for human beings.
Image courtesy: Wiki Media Commons

As per the research paper ‘How Low Can You Go? Physical Production Mechanism of Elephant InfrasonicVocalizations’, published by the journal Science, researchers were able to simulate the low-frequency rumbles made by elephants to communicate within the group members.

Despite being low-frequency, the song is audible to a distance of six miles to other elephants, which is why they use it to communicate and keep in touch with herd members.

Elephant song is no cat’s purr

illustration showing the singing mechanism in elephants
Image courtesy:sciencemag

The discovery sets aside a wide ranging speculation that the sounds produced by muscle twitching by neural stimuli as in the case of cat’s purring. The scientists, according to the paper, have found that the sound was made by the vibration of the vocal folds when air from the passes through the larynx in a self-sustained manner.  It is exactly what happens when humans sing too. 

To find out the secret, the researchers used the larynx of a dead elephant at a Berlin zoo by setting it up in the laboratory to record the high speed video clips of the flow-induced vocal fold movements. Since the larynx was excised, it was clear that there is no neural stimulus involved.

Young elephants perform like heavy metal singers, when excited

According to the statement by a member of the research team, they have also observed some similarities between young elephants and heavy metal singers. Both of them scream in such a way to create irregular pattern of vocal fold vibration, often to make it audible like a scream. The difference is that heavy metal singers do so while performing, young elephants, when they are highly excited. 
The researchers also claim that the principles they have developed with the help of the observations can be applied to different mammals. 

Christian T. Herbst, W. Tecumseh Fitch and Angela S. Stoeger of University of Vienna, Roland Frey of Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research,  Jörg Lohscheller of University of Applied Sciences, Ingo R. Titze of University of Utah and Michaela Gumpenberger of University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna co-authored the paper.

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