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Horm Behav. 2003 Apr;43(4):433-43.

The use of low-frequency vocalizations in African elephant(Loxodonta africana) reproductive strategies.

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Disney's Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA.


Fertility-advertisement calls in females are predicted to occur in nonmonogamous species where males and females are widely separated in space. In African elephants, low-frequency vocalizations have thus been suggested as a reproductive strategy used by fertile females to attract mates. This study examined the use of low-frequency vocalizations with respect to different phases of the estrous cycle in African elephants by simultaneously monitoring vocalizations, behavior, and hormonal profiles. Subjects were one male and six female African elephants housed at Disney's Animal Kingdom. No acoustically distinct vocalizations were restricted to the ovulatory follicular phase. However, overall rate of low-frequency vocalization as well as the rate of one acoustically distinct vocalization changed over the estrous cycle, with highest rates of calling related to the first period of follicular growth, or anovulatory follicular phase. Elevated rates of vocalization thus were not restricted to behavioral estrus and occurred much earlier in the estrous cycle than in most species that produce fertility-advertisement calls. Both herd composition and elephant identity also affected rates of vocalization. Vocalizations therefore may not be reliable signals of actual fertility. However, the increase in vocalizations in advance of estrus may attract males to the herd prior to ovulation, facilitating both male-male competition and female choice. Once present in the herd, males may then switch strategies to use more reliable chemical and visual cues to detect ovulating females.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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