Legends said that African elephants could mysteriously communicate with each other across huge stretches of land. Now it’s been discovered that this is true?they do it by stamping their gigantic feet on the ground, setting off vibrations. There’s long been another legend that elephants return to the sites where their ancestors were killed, almost as if they were paying homage to them. There’s new evidence that this is also true.

Shaoni Bhattacharya writes in livescience.com that scientists have drawn this conclusion by noting the ways the animals react to skulls and ivory. They show a much higher interest in elephant skulls than they do in the skulls of other animals, and they become more preoccupied with ivory than they do with a piece of wood of the same shape and size. If this is the case, they would be the only animals, aside from ourselves, who take an interest in the dead. Even chimpanzees, our nearest relatives, only take a limited interest in the body of a dead friend. When it starts to decompose, they lose interest in it.

The elephants studied weren’t able to pick out the skull of a dead relative?any more than we would recognize a relative’s skeleton?but they did show an awareness that the skulls they were shown belonged to other elephants.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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