The ability to discriminate between call types and callers as well as more subtle information about the importance of a call has been documented in a range of species. This type of discrimination is also important in the vibrotactile environment for species that communicate via vibrations. It has recently been shown that African elephants (Loxodonta africana) can detect seismic cues, but it is not known whether they discriminate seismic information from noise. In a series of experiments, familiar and unfamiliar alarm calls were transmitted seismically to wild African elephant family groups. Elephants respond significantly to the alarm calls of familiar herds (p=0.004) but not to the unfamiliar calls and two different controls, thus demonstrating the ability of elephants to discriminate subtle differences between seismic calls given in the same context. If elephants use the seismic environment to detect and discriminate between conspecific calls, based on the familiarity of the caller or some other physical property, they may be using the ground as a very sophisticated sounding board.

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