Elephants greet each other by "saying hello" and gesturing

Elephants are highly intelligent, almost as smart as dolphins. Now, animal behaviorists from the University of Vienna, the University of Portsmouth, Elephant CREW, Jafuta Reserve, and the University of St Andrews have determined elephants use a combination of gestures and vocal cues when greeting one another. Over the course of a month, the researchers observed African elephants in Zimbabwe's Jafuta Reserve, documenting over a thousand physical actions and hundreds of vocalizations during these encounters. Apparently, the animals appear to place great importance on greetings.

"When two elephants who have not seen each other for a while meet, they both engage in apparently meaningful behavior. Gestures included swinging the trunk or using it to touch, ear-flapping and ear-spreading," reports Phys.org. "Vocalizations tended to be rumbles of different sorts."

Interestingly, additional behaviors like urination, defecation, and the secretion of sweat from the temporal gland—which releases distinct odors—were also part of their greeting rituals.

The study, published in the journal Communications Biology, found that the type of greeting behavior varied depending on whether the elephants were making eye contact. Elephants were more likely to use gestures when looking at each other and would engage in ear flapping to capture the attention of an unobservant peer.

According to the researchers, the elephants use gestures and vocalizations as part of a complex communication system to share information when they meet.

Previously: Golden Retriever uses talking buttons to instruct his human