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Until now, scientists did not know whether the elephant brought sound the way we speak or differently, such as the way cats purr. A human produces noises because the vocal cords vibrate commonly when air flows past. But a cat must actively release the muscles of its larynx to produce its deep, rhythmic purr. When a zoo elephant died of natural causes, fieldworkers took the animal’s larynx to their lab and ran air through it to find out which method elephants use to make sound.