Categorized | Animals

The sound of the elephants

ElephantThe elephants’ sound is much like singing, not purring, when they rumble at friends and foes. This sound is heard for many kilometers away. Though humans can’t hear it, their infrasonic elements are very much alike to a cat’s purring. Scientists measured the sound of a dead elephant and they figured out that it might be bigger, similar to someone singing or speaking.

Cats are purring when their muscles contract very quickly. There were speculations that some of the elephant’s muscles, when contracted, give birth to a a very low infrasound. One scientist from the University of Vienna, Christian Herbst, said that an elephant could make these kind of rumbles, just exhaling air. His conclusion is that the purring premise is not quite true. He tries to study the lowest song of the elephants on the 3rd of August for the interest of science.

When people can hear the sound produced by an elephant, that sound is heard in the air just 800 meters, but the infrasonic sound can be up to even 10 kilometers. It can vibrates through the earth too and it can reach even farther. A scientist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Peter Wrege, admits that they don’t know exactly how the sound is produced in itself and its specific traits. He observes the forest in search for the infra sound of the elephants.

Herbst agrees with him and he even recorded his own larynx, but he won’t try with an elephant. He is afraid that the elephant would close his mouth, saying thanks for the delicious meal. That could be the least that can happen to you, continue Herbst.

They thought of a new idea. They made an agreement with the people from a zoo that they are given the larynx of an elephant just a few hours after its death. The strips of tissue that lay across the airway are named vocal folds. The larynx has these kind of strips. When the air gets out of the lungs, the folds are separated and then they touch again, in order to create puffs. This is the whole mechanism. If you want to see how they vibrate, imagine a flag in the wind.

Elephant’s fold are eight times bigger than the ones of the humans. The bigger they are, the lower are the sounds they make. If we had these kind of fold, we would speak with infra sound too. If we try a larynx in the lab, we could create sounds who are much alike to an elephant’s rumble with a very low vibration. This is the basic frequency. Unfortunately, the exam can’t seize everything that an alive elephant can do with its voice.

Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, Stanford School of Medicine, who specialized in otolaryngology, tells us about the elephants’ deviations. In front of the elephants’ skull there is a big cavity, in which is stored much fatness, similar to the acoustic structures of different mammals that live in the sea. That means that the vocal folds is just the start for an interesting story, that is worth researching.

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