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Clicking Antelopes

December 17, 2008

Male eland antelopes click their knees to warn other males of their fighting ability.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
How antelopes avoid fights….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Native to Africa, elands are the world’s largest antelope. Males use their considerable bulk to fight other males for dominance. But according to behavioral ecologist Jakob Bro-Jorgensen of the Zoological Society of London, fighting is inherently risky. So to avoid constant conflict, the males signal their fighting ability in other ways.

JAKOB BRO-JORGENSEN (Zoological Society of London):
Perhaps the most surprising of these is the loud knee-clicking sounds.

HIRSHON:
These are produced when the tendon rubs against a bone in the leg. He says bigger males produce a lower-pitched sound.

JAKOB BRO-JORGENSEN:
If you think of a harp, you know that the longer the string, the deeper the sound.

HIRSHON:
Since body size is an indicator of fighting ability, he says males with the deepest clicking sounds effectively warn other males to stay away. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.