why do some animals use infrasound to communicate

The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is the world's tallest mammal, standing as tall as 18 feet. They live in herds of anywhere from 5 to 20 giraffes. Within these herds, giraffes do communicate with one another, although they are often thought to be silent animals. Humans cannot hear most of the communication between giraffes because they communicate infrasonically, with moans and grunts too low for humans to hear. Mother giraffes sometimes use whistles to warn or call their young. Other ways giraffes communicate are with their eyes and by touching other giraffes in the herd. As any observer of giraffes at a zoo will tell you, giraffes can communicate many different emotions with their big brown eyes. In wild herd, giraffes may use prolonged stares to warn predators to stay away from young calves or to warn other herd members of danger, for example. Giraffes do not touch one another much, even though they live in close proximity. Although they share some characteristics with elephant herds, they do not share the touchy-feely close-knit relationship that elephant families share. Instead, giraffes only touch occasionally. Mother giraffes may nuzzle and stroke their calves to show affection or for training the calf in where to find food or avoid danger. Another occasion when giraffes touch one another is in a ritual called "necking. " This is a form of sparring between male giraffes.


The purpose is for one giraffe to show dominance over the other. The two giraffes stand with their feet spread apart and wrap or rub their necks with one another. The dominance dance may grow more serious and rough at times. At other times, the two male giraffes seem to lose interest and just walk away. Infrasonic communication simply means that giraffe's talk to one another with sounds that are extremely low pitched, low frequency. The frequency is so low that the human ear cannot hear the sounds. However, in recent years, scientists have been able to record giraffes and whales with special recording equipment and listen to these sounds with computers. One of the distinct features of infrasonic communication is that it can travel over longer distances than higher pitched sounds. It is thought that animals may be able to communicate with other animals several miles away. This can become vital to warn of danger. Giraffes communicate for a wide variety of reasons. Male giraffes cough when calling to a female giraffe for mating. Giraffes must warn other herd members of danger. There may be even more ways that giraffes communicate, as scientists are just learning more about infrasonic communication and the intricate details of this fascinating species.
Infra or low frequency sound are frequencies below 20 Hz, the threshold of average human hearing.


Many animals mostly large ones use infrasound to communicate over long distances because it travels further than higher frequencies. For example, blue whales the largest animal communicate over hundreds of miles and are the loudest animal in the world ( loud being amplitude or the strength of the signal) but they do so in the 10-30 Hz range similar to elephants, so we can t hear them yelling. In regards to localizing (higher frequency) sound, elephants most likely use the same system all animals use, which is that there is a very small time delay between the arrival of the sound to each ear because they are different distances from the source. Some animals like barn owls also have their left/right ear openings offset so that they can triangulate (three dimensions) a sound source, typically a rodent, with near perfect accuracy in total darkness. But. elephants also use another aspect of low frequency sound to hear, which has to do with the tendency of low frequency sound to vibrate solids and liquids (simply look at a large speaker diaphragm or a glass of water when bass notes are played and you ll see them vibrate).


Careful observation by field scientists combined with GPS tracking and directional technology sensitive to low frequency sound indicate elephants can hear through their feet, that is, sense low frequency ground vibrations of the elephant frequency elephants do not have hard hooves like horses or buffalo, but large, skin covered pads on the bottom of their feet. It has also been observed that elephants tend to orient their bodies in the direction of their foot hearing, which may mean they are using the distance separating their front/back/left right feet like they, and other animals, use their left/right ears to discriminate the directional source of the sound. I have seen what I believe to have been elephants listening to low frequency sounds more than once in Africa: the herd suddenly stopping what they are doing as a group, exactly as if they were listening to something (which I could not hear), but not lifting their trunks or looking in the same direction, or flaring their ears, which would suggest a smell/sight/higher frequency stimulus. Below, anatomy of an elephant s foot. Unlike horses or buffalo, elephants have a skin covered pad on the bottom of their foot, under which is a pad of fat and connective tissue that may help to amplify low frequency sound heard through their feet.

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