Elephants make ‘beware of the bees’ alarm calls

April 27th, 2010 - 4:12 pm ICT by ANI  

London, April 27 (ANI): A new study has shown that elephants utter a distinctive rumble in response to the sound of bees, signalling troop members to flee their attackers.

According to researchers, this is the first time elephants have been found to make specific sounds to warn of particular threats, although they have also been observed ‘roaring’ when threatened by lions.

“Six out of 10 elephant families fled from the loudspeaker when we played the ‘bee rumble’ compared to just two when we played a control rumble and one with the same call shifted to a different frequency,” New Scientist quoted Lucy King of the University of Oxford, who heads a team in Kenya investigating the meanings of elephant vocalisations, as saying.

The fleeing elephants also shook their heads violently, as if trying to deflect bees.

The new study opens up the possibility of using recordings of the ‘bee rumble’ as a deterrent as well, helping to prevent potential conflict between humans and elephants.

Elephants are terrified of bees because they can crawl into their trunk and sting them from inside it. They also sting around the animals’ eyes, leaving painful welts that take weeks to disappear.

According to the researchers, the rumbles alert both the elephant’s family and neighbouring herds to the threat, and may teach young elephants that bees are dangerous.

The study has been published in the Journal PLoS ONE. (ANI)

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