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Scientific research. Elephants communicate through scents

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African elephants can communicate with each other through scents. Australian scientists have discovered that animals secrete chemicals that can be easily identified by other animals. In addition, they can instantly store scents in memory.

African elephants communicate with each other using a variety of signals. Animals can make a variety of sounds, as well as transmit information to other members of the herd through the movements of the trunk and ears. As the study published in the journal Scientific Reports shows, these mammals also communicate through the sense of smell, and the information transmitted in this way can remain in their memory for a long time.

Unique chemical composition

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia conducted research on 113 elephants living in nature reserves in Malawi. They focused primarily on the analysis of the composition of secretions and metabolic products of animals, as well as determined the degree of relationship between them through DNA tests. As it turned out, each individual had a slightly different “olfactory profile”.

‘We found a number of chemicals that were common to group members, as well as others that were unique to each individual,’ explained study co-author Professor Louw Hoffman.

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The researcher explained that elephants’ social behavior also suggests that they use scent to communicate with others, both within and outside their herd.

“We’ve seen elephants greet each other by squeaking and flapping their ears,” he said. – In this way, they can push their pheromones towards the other animal, showing that they recognize them. When two elephants push against each other by wiggling their ears, (…) they can simply send their scent as a warning not to mess with them.

African elephants – illustrative photoShutterstock

Elephant memory

Hoffman added that elephants not only identify different smells, but also retain them efficiently in memory.

“Some of the animals in the study were bred in captivity and taught tricks, including picking up a tourist’s hat and sniffing it,” he said. – When the tourist returned many hours later, the elephant could immediately recognize to whom the hat belonged.

Thanks to their keen sense of smell and good memory, animals can recognize their siblings even years after they have been separated. The researchers say elephants can also be trained to detect a range of scents, including blood and explosives.

“These findings show that elephants are complex creatures,” said Hoffman. ‘Humans seem to us to be at the top of the evolutionary ladder, but we know that elephants are one of many animals whose senses are more finely tuned than ours. There are many things they can teach us, he added.

University of Queensland, Animal Diversity Web

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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