Elephants Console Each Other
They comfort distressed pals, says study
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2014 5:27 PM CST
They comfort distressed pals, says study.   (AP Photo/ Tom Odula)

(Newser) – Elephants not only recognize when a member of their group is stressed, they offer comfort in the form of reassuring touches and chirping noises, reports National Geographic. The "comforting" trait is rare among animals, with dogs, chimps, and we humans among the few to have it. Researchers in Thailand studying Asian elephants saw the pattern time after time: When one elephant showed signs of distress (think flared nostrils and an erect tail), others would gather around to offer support. The supportive elephants would put their trunks in the stressed elephant's mouth, make noises akin to chirps, and touch the elephant's genitals (but not in that way), reports Scientific American.

"Genital touching is a way for elephants to identify others, and in this case, it may also be a way for the elephants to identify the behavioral state of the others," one of the co-authors says in the LA Times. Putting their trunks in the other's mouth, meanwhile, "seems to be a way of saying, 'I'm here to help you.'" (National Geographic likens it to a hug.) Researchers hope the insight into the elephants' behavior could help conservation efforts, as human and elephant habitats move ever closer together. (In other animal news, cats may be able to see things that are invisible to us.)

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Showing 3 of 27 comments
Feb 21, 2014 12:24 PM CST
Because they don't have cell phones, stupid! They actually do like, care about one another, rather than trying to prove self worth, by how many total strangers, perverts, ax murders, liberal losers "like" them.
Feb 20, 2014 1:01 PM CST
Nothing new. Always known most animals are superior to humans, within societal constructs.
Feb 20, 2014 7:35 AM CST
Mother elephant comforting baby elephant, "You're not fat, you're just big boned."