Giraffes have always been considered mute, despite their long necks, but now scientists believe they can talk to each other. “We believe that giraffes are forcing large columns of air out their long, long trachea, and out of a small opening, which is actually their larynx,” says researcher Liz von Muggenthaler. “And that is creating a sound.”
Giraffes communicate infrasound, which is far beneath our own hearing, and they produce this by throwing back their heads. “What this is doing is opening up the larynx so that air can pass freely through,” she says. “If you could hear it, it would sound like a great burst of air: PSSH.”
Von Muggenthaler separated a herd of giraffes at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, S.C., because they are more likely to communicate when they can’t see the rest of their herd. She waited to see if they would toss back their heads and try to contact the others. She hid while her assistant stood outside with a walkie-talkie to watch the giraffes and describe their movements to her.
As soon as the herd was separated into two groups, the adult female inside the pen began stretching her neck and the giraffes outside stopped and perked up their ears. “Yeah, there’s some listening going on,” the assistant reported. When Von Muggenthaler used computer software to enhance the sound, it sounded like the deep bass of a stereo system.
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To read the Oct. 10 news story on ?Secret Sounds,? click here.
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