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Elephants Seem To Use Names For Each Other | Kids Discover Rare T. Rex Fossil

Science Friday

14-06-2024 • 25 mins

A new study used machine learning to analyze elephant vocalizations and identified “contact rumbles” that appear to function as names. Also, on a hike in the Badlands, a family found a dinosaur bone sticking out of a rock. It joined the few teenage T. rex fossils ever discovered.

Elephants Seem To Use Names For Each Other

Scientists have long known that elephants exhibit some advanced social behaviors that we humans find familiar, including tool use and funerals.

And a new study from Colorado State a university offers compelling evidence that African savannah elephants might engage in another human social behavior: having names for each other. Researchers applied machine learning to a database of 600 elephant vocalizations, which included “contact rumbles,” vocalizations that researchers observed that other elephants responded to. The algorithm identified repeated sections of those recordings that might represent names.

When the researchers played these possible “name” sections of audio to pairs of elephants—one of which was the suspected owner of the name—the appropriate elephant responded at a rate significantly better than random chance.

Guest host Annie Minoff is joined by Tim Revell, deputy editor at New Scientist, to talk about this and other science stories from the week, including the possible effects a freezing interstellar cloud had on Earth a few million years ago, the biological effects of short term spaceflight on private citizen passengers on SpaceX flights, and a new species of pterosaur found in the Australian outback with a killer tongue.

Kids Discover Extremely Rare T. Rex Fossil

For one family, a summer hike in the badlands of North Dakota turned into the discovery of a lifetime when they spotted a fossil jutting out of a rock. Two brothers, their dad, and a cousin found the fossil, and with the help of some dinosaur experts, they eventually learned it was a T. rex.

The fossil wasn’t just of any T. rex, but a teenage one. These fossils are incredibly rare—there are only a handful of them in the world.

Guest host Annie Minoff discusses this dino discovery and what it means for science with 12-year-old Jessin Fisher, a budding paleontologist and one of the brothers who discovered the fossil, as well as Dr. Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Colorado who helped excavate the fossil.

Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

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