Google+

Blowing Air Through A Pachyderm’s Larynx Offers Hints To Low-Frequency Communication

Elephants don’t purr so much as sing when they unleash low-frequency rumblings at friends and foes kilometers away.

Too low for humans to hear, the infrasonic components of elephants’ calls have at times been attributed to a process similar to a cat’s contented thrum. But new measurements made by blowing air through the voice box, or larynx, of a deceased zoo elephant suggest that the mechanism is actually a (much bigger) analog to a person speaking or singing.

Cascades of fast, active muscle contraction give cats their purr. Biologists have speculated that some similar muscle twitching creates the deep throbbing of elephant infrasound. But elephants can get their rumbles going just by exhaling air through their vocal tracts, says Christian Herbst of the University of Vienna. With the new demonstration of air power, Herbst says, “there’s no need to go into the purring hypothesis.” He and his colleagues make their case for superlow elephant song in the Aug. 3 Science.

The part of an elephant’s call audible to humans travels only about 800 meters through air, but the infrasonic tones can reach up to 10 kilometers under ideal conditions. The noise can vibrate via the ground too, theoretically going much farther.

“We really do not know that much about the specific characteristics of elephant sound production,” says Peter Wrege of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who directs a project monitoring hard-to-see forest elephants in Central Africa by listening for infrasound.

Too true, Herbst says. He’s recorded his own larynx in action by threading equipment into his mouth, but he’s not going to try that with any big mammal.

“The elephant would just close his mouth and say, ‘Thank you for the snack,’” Herbst says. “If you’re lucky.”

He and his colleagues made arrangements with a zoo to extract the larynx of an elephant within just a few hours of its death. An elephant larynx has strips of tissue lying across the airway called vocal folds, just as humans and other mammals do. As air rushes up out of the lungs, the folds separate and then touch again, creating puffs that set the whole voice mechanism into action. To visualize their vibrations, Herbst says, “think of a flag in the wind.”

Elephants have vocal folds about eight times the size of a human’s, and greater size lowers the sound of the vibrations. If people had elephantine vocal folds, humankind might be speaking infrasound too.

The disembodied larynx in the lab could be re-creating sounds similar to an elephant’s infrasonic blast in the lowest-pitched vibration, called the fundamental frequency. But the test didn’t capture all of the complexities of a real call from a living animal with an intact head.

“Elephants have these really interesting anomalies,” says Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell of Stanford School of Medicine’s otolaryngology department. A large cavity opens in the front of an elephant skull, with some deposits of dense fat a bit like the acoustic structures in marine mammals. So vocal folds flapping in the wind might be only the beginning of the story, she says.

Source: Science News / Susan Milius / Photo Credit: Angela S. Stoeger

Entertainment

For movies opening December 2, 2016

  OPENING THIS WEEK Kam's Kapsules Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun by Kam Williams For movies opening December 2, 2016     BIG BUDGET FILMS Incarnate (PG-13 for terror, profanity, disturbing images, intense violence, sensuality and mature themes) Horror flick about an unconventional exorcist (Aaron Eckhart) who meets his match while attempting to free the mind of an 11 year-old (David Mazouz) possessed by a … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

Volume 2 of Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! – You Do NOT Want to Miss This

  Volume 2 of Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! – You Do NOT Want to Miss This Book Review by Amy Lignor What began in an unforgettable Volume 1—living Jerry Hall’s story and dealing with the heart-wrenching issues of the Viet Nam* War—continues here. The action of battle, fraught with the unending horrors that the “unwanted veterans” dealt with, grows even more painful. And as war comes closer to an end, what should have been peaceful … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

New Home Sales Jump in April

  New Home Sales Jump in April By Burt Carey Sales of new homes hit their highest rate since 2008 in April, according to the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau. April sales increased 16.6 percent over March figures, which correlates to a seasonally adjusted rate of 619,000 home sales projected for the year. The median price of those new homes was $321,000, the highest median price ever recorded. That’s up 9.7 percent … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

Inside WildAid

  Inside WildAid by Amy Lignor   Donations can be made. Time can be volunteered. There are a great number of charities, organizations and hard workers out there who strive with everything they have to save the animals of the world. The National Wildlife Administration, the World Wildlife Federation – these are just two leaders that help keep our beloved species’ on the map. There is also an organization whose sole mission is to end … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Skeeter Boats Comes Up with Cure for Cabin Fever

  Skeeter Boats Comes Up with Cure for Cabin Fever By Craig Lamb   If you are overdosing on TV fishing shows, mindlessly flipping through tackle catalogs, or feeling down and don’t know why, then you are not alone. Count yourself among most of the fishermen in the entire country. We have cabin fever. It’s common this time of year when hunting and football overtake wetting a line on the list of weekend priorities. Or, it’s just plain too … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

The Best & Worst (So Far) of the 2016 NFL Season

  The Best & Worst (So Far) of the 2016 NFL Season by Amy Lignor     Okay…we’re almost dead center, folks, so it’s time to sum up the best and silliest actions and reactions that the 2016 NFL season has provided fans thus far.   Analysts are always yapping, and most likely nothing they say will actually come true. However, right now almost everyone is agreeing to the fact that Tom Brady has a score to settle. Yes, … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Charity Begins at Home

  Charity Begins at Home by Amy Lignor   Turning a blind eye is easy for some; preferred by others. But the fact is that the bad doesn’t become good – in any area – unless eyes are open wide to not only see what’s occurring, but also to gain the knowledge needed to stop the bad from getting even worse. Remarks are made about “other countries” and what they do wrong when it comes to the harming of animals for profit. However, in … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Exploring the Holidays Around the Globe

  Exploring the Holidays Around the Globe by Amy Lignor   Thanksgiving has been had. Games have been watched and the golden turkey has caused a great many belts to be loosened. So…here it comes!   From hanging the stockings on the chimney with care to the red-nosed reindeer who had to be there; from Santa heading down that chimney just right to lovely sleigh bells ringing softly in the night, the holiday season is a truly … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

Forecasting Climate Change

  Forecasting Climate Change by Amy Lignor As with anything in this world, it depends on whose opinion or observations you trust as to just how bad climate change is becoming. As 2016 begins to wrap up, climate scientists, atmospheric physicists, chemists, oceanographers – you name it – no one can come up with any other explanation for climate change and the warming of our planet other than human activity. How fast is it happening? … [Read More its Good for You...]