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A fascinating discovery in South Africa in 2019 of historic elephant tracks could be the first documented example of trace fossil evidence illustrating the way elephants communicate with each other using seismic, underground vibrations.

The intriguing report detailing this discovery Elephant seismicity: Ichnological and rock art perspectives from South Africa was published online on the 23rd September 2023.

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An article published December 26th 2023 summarises they key findings, including this excerpt:

'Less than two metres away from a cluster of fossil elephant tracks was a round feature, 57cm in diameter, containing concentric ring features. Another layer was exposed about 7cm below this surface. It contained at least 14 parallel groove features. Where the grooves approached the rings, they made a slight curve towards them. The two findings, we hypothesised, were connected with each other and appeared to have a common origin. The feature we found in 2019 seemed to reflect just such a phenomenon: an elephant triggering waves that rippled outwards. After additional investigation and a thorough search for alternative explanations, we could report...that we believe we’ve found the world’s first trace fossil signature of seismic, underground communication between elephants.'

As always, elephants continue to humble and astound us with their intelligence and sentience.


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