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How elephants listen… with their feet

5 minutes

The ‘seismic communication’ of elephants treads a fine line between hearing and feeling

The trumpeting of elephants is a magnificent and unforgettable sound to human ears but, beyond the reach of our hearing, elephant communication involves something truly remarkable. The high-frequency vibrations of their massive vocal chords can reach the ears of other elephants within roughly a mile, but the low frequencies can travel through the ground to be picked up by the extremely sensitive feet of elephants up to six miles away. This two-tiered communication method is useful for sending messages to nearby members of a herd as well as more distant rival herds and potential mates. Shot at Etosha National Park in Namibia, this video from the science and nature documentary series Deep Look investigates elephants’ beguiling web of communication, including the difficulty of untangling the differences between hearing and feeling. Read more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and writer: Elliott Kennerson

Narrator and writer: Laura Klivans

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