Author Interview: Acoustic cues to individuality in wild male adult African savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana)
PeerJ spoke to Dr Kaja Wierucka about the recently published article Acoustic cues to individuality in wild male adult African savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana). Dr Kaja Wierucka is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Hong Kong
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Hong Kong. I am a behavioural ecologist specialising in animal communication and am particularly interested in exploring what information is encoded in various sensory cues and how this affects animal behaviour.
Can you briefly explain the research you published in PeerJ?
The ability to recognise others is important for many species, as it drives social behaviours. As these most frequently occur when animals live in groups, recognition is often studied in that context. Male African elephants, however, leave their natal groups and are usually observed alone. Because of this, we did not have a good understanding of their social lives until recently. New research showed that male elephants in the studied population maintain long-term social associations with other males (Murphy et al. 2019). Thus, the ability to recognise male conspecifics over time could be central to the stability of male elephant social strategies. In this study, we analyse male African elephant (Loxodonta africana) vocalisations to test whether they could be used for individual recognition. We showed that sounds produced by male elephants are not only distinct from each other, but also stable over time. Therefore, they could be used by the animals to recognise one another and consequently have the potential to shape male elephant social interactions.
What kinds of lessons do you hope your readers take away from the research?
Incremental progress is still progress! Elephants have been shown to produce individually distinct calls before, but it was important to test this on wild individuals and provide proof that these vocalisations are stable over time. This is valuable information that gives more justification for funding (time- and cost-intense) field studies that will allow us to confirm the findings with behavioural experiments.
How did you first hear about PeerJ, and what persuaded you to submit to us?
I heard about PeerJ from colleagues some time ago. I always liked the idea of a journal that focuses on the quality of work rather than the novelty of a publication. The transparency of the review process and benefits for reviewers in the form of discounts on publishing fees are very appealing and a great step towards reforming the peer review process. I recently reviewed an article for PeerJ, which ultimately convinced me to submit my newest manuscript here.
How would you describe your experience of our submission/review process?
Excellent, the process was straightforward and easy. The speed and clarity of responses from the editor and team made it a great experience.
Would you submit again, and would you recommend that your colleagues submit?