Elephants Have Social Networks

A new study by the University of Pennsylvania suggests elephants are even smarter and more socially complex than previously thought. The conventional wisdom was that elephants lived in small herds that centered around females, while the males wandered independently. The new study shows that the herds are actually interconnected social groups who "track one another over large distances by calling to each other and using their sense of smell," according to Dr. Shermin de Silva.

From the Daily Mail:

‘So the "herd" of elephants one sees at any given time is often only a fragment of a much larger social group.

‘Our work shows that they are able recognize their friends and renew these bonds even after being apart for a long time.'

Other fascinating elephant facts:

  • Elephants with fewer friends tended to be more loyal to the ones they had.
  • Individual elephants don't just "mix randomly" with the population. They have a set of preferred companions
  • A 16 percent minority of elephants changed their "top five" friends over time.
  • Social bonds are strongest in the dry season, thought to be a means to help protect food and water supply.
  • They indicate they approve of something by tapping the "like" button on each other's Facebook pages with their trunks. Ha ha! Just kidding!
[Image via Shutterstock ]