Operant control and call usage learning in African elephants

Autor(en)
Angela Stöger-Horwath, Anton Baotic
Abstrakt

Elephants exhibit remarkable vocal plasticity, and case studies reveal that individuals of African savannah (Loxodonta africana) and Asian (Elephas maximus) elephants are capable of vocal production learning. Surprisingly, however, little is known about contextual learning (usage and comprehension learning) in elephant communication. Usage learning can be demonstrated by training animals to vocalize in an arbitrary (cue-triggered) context. Here we show that adult African savannah elephants (n = 13) can vocalize in response to verbal cues, reliably producing social call types such as the low-frequency rumble, trumpets and snorts as well as atypical sounds using various mechanisms, thus displaying compound vocal control. We further show that rumbles emitted upon trainer cues differ significantly in structure from rumbles triggered by social contexts of the same individuals (n = 6). Every form of social learning increases the complexity of a communication system. In elephants, we only poorly understand their vocal learning abilities and the underlying cognitive mechanisms. Among other research, this calls for controlled learning experiments in which the prerequisite is operant/volitional control of vocalizations.

Organisation(en)
Department für Verhaltens- und Kognitionsbiologie
Journal
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Band
376
ISSN
0962-8436
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0254
Publikationsdatum
10-2021
Peer-reviewed
Ja
ÖFOS 2012
106054 Zoologie
Link zum Portal
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/de/publications/operant-control-and-call-usage-learning-in-african-elephants(31b1175a-ba9e-455a-b1da-ac947146ed03).html