Research on African elephant (Loxodonta africana) vocal communication has increased in recent years, yet there has been very little data collected on the vocal production of infant African elephants. Vocalizations were recorded from a group of five adult female African elephants and 3 dependent offspring (1 male and 2 female) at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Florida, U.S.A., using custom-designed audio-recording collars worn by the adult females. We measured both source and filter features of infant ‘rumble’ vocalizations made during affiliative social interactions and after cessation of nursing from adult females. Rumble vocalizations produced in the ‘nurse cessation’ context exhibited an upward shift in formant frequency locations, compared to rumbles produced during the ‘affiliation’ context. Additionally, call duration increased and fundamental frequencies decreased after nurse cessations for the male, but both females showed the opposite acoustic response. When infant rumbles accompanied nurse cessations, nursing was more likely to resume within 30 seconds compared to nurse cessations without vocalizations. These results suggest that infant rumbles associated with cessation of nursing reflect the motivational state of infants and may influence maternal responsiveness.
nfant begging, maternal care, parental investment, parent-offspring conflict, vocal signalling