One of the distinctive features of the Elephant is its trunk. It is often taken for granted when this part of their body possesses fine motor skills and sensitivity.
About 50,000 muscles in an elephant’s trunk are divided into six muscle groups, and there are no bones. It is comparable to the 639 muscles of the entire human body.
The closest thing we have to an elephant’s trunk is the tongue. Elephants use their trunks for breathing, drinking, eating, smelling, diving, fighting, communicating, touching, feeling, holding, grabbing, and pushing. It’s hard to think of anything else that’s so versatile.
A little about Elephant’s trunk
The Elephant’s trunk seems just one part of the body, but it is both the nose and the upper lip, with two nostrils going through it all.
At the tip, the African Elephant has two fingers, while the Asian one has one finger. The fingers have a lot of agility, so much that they can grasp a single blade of grass.
At the same time, it is muscular and powerful; it can lift weights of over 250 kg. It has eight large muscles on both sides and 150,000 muscle bands in all.
It is a muscular structure that allows an elephant to reach surfaces that would otherwise be unapproachable by the Elephant, given its size.
It also allows him to do many impossible things for other animals, such as crossing a submerged stream, with the trunk taking in air from outside.
It has millions of receptors and sensors that allow the Elephant to have a more developed nose and smell water several miles away. Not to mention the sensitivity: the trunk can hear the roar of distant herds and even thunder.
It can suck up to 10 liters of water per minute and hold up to 2 liters at a time. The Elephant does not drink through its trunk but uses it to bring the water into its mouth.
Elephants use their trunk for social purposes, such as stroking, greeting, and comforting. For example, it is also used to communicate with sign language: an S formation means it wants to get acquainted.
If they cross their trunks with each other, they greet each other like a handshake. It is also used to bring food to the mouth and throw mud.
New Research shows elephants can store up to 5.5 liters of water. Elephant trunks are known for their diverse capacity, weighing up to 140 kilograms.
The team analyzed how elephants use their trunks to move and manipulate air, water, food, and other objects.
“An elephant eats about 200 pounds of food a day, but very little is known about how they use their trunks to pick up light food and water for 18 hours every day,” explains Andrew Schulz, one of the authors.
Scientists have concluded that these mammals can suck 3.7 liters in just 1.5 seconds, the equivalent of 20 flushes.
Through movement, elephants dilate their nostrils up to 30%, which allows them to expand their nasal volume up to 64% and store more water inside.
Researchers then observed that elephants could store up to 5.5 liters of water in their trunks. Furthermore, the authors state that this is also the only animal on the planet that can use its suction capacity both on land and underwater.
Experts are now looking to use these results as a source of inspiration for robots. “By investigating the mechanics and physics behind trunk muscle movements, we can apply physical mechanisms – combinations of suction and grip – to find new ways to build robots,” explains Andrew Schulz.
The African Elephant is now listed as ‘endangered’ due to hunting and habitat loss. Its trunk makes it an unusual species to be studied. As we learn more about them, we can learn how to preserve and improve elephants in the wild.
Some interesting facts about Elephant
From a Hindu god to a Disney movie theme, the Elephant is present in our imagination, but you may not know how long the gestation of one of these animals lasts, for example. And how do they sleep?
The largest mammals on the planet are impressed for their size, remarkable memory, and social habits. Get to know some facts about elephants such as:
1. There are three species of elephants in the world: the Asian, the African from the rainforest (Loxodonta cyclotis), and the African from the savannah (Loxodonta africana).
2. The African species are between 2.5 and 4 meters and weigh from 2.2 to 6.3 tons. The Asian one is between 2 and 3 meters and weighs 2 to 5 tons. Babies are born weighing around 90 kg.
3. The hugest Elephant ever recorded weighed about 10 tons and was 96 meters tall.
4. The Elephant’s ears are used to dissipate heat. Covered with small veins, they facilitate heat dispersion, which maintains the animal’s body temperature.
5. Elephants love water and love to bathe with their trunks.
6. Unlike what appears in cartoons, peanuts are not part of their everyday diet. They don’t even seem to like peanuts very much.
7. Adult elephants can eat up to 136 kg of food per day.
8. The gestation of an elephant is the longest on the planet. Pregnancy lasts about 22 months. Female elephants give birth to one baby at a time.
9. Elephants can hear their sounds up to 8 km away.
10. The animals’ skin is so sensitive that he can feel it when a fly lands on his body.
11. Elephants are a few animals that recognize their image in the mirror, along with dolphins, killer whales, magpies (birds of the raven family), some species of monkeys, and, of course, humans.
12. Elephants sleep standing or lying on their sides. They spend between three and six hours a day sleeping.
13. The trunk has about 100,000 different muscles.
14. Elephants protect themselves with sand or mud, so they don’t get sunburned.
15. They are afraid of bees and make a specific sound when they sense the presence of a swarm.
16. Females live in groups of about ten animals. The matriarch, usually the eldest, leads all. Males leave females when they reach adolescence, at approximately 12 years of age. They remain in groups of young elephants until they reach maturity and are ready to fend for themselves.
17. Elephants have 24 teeth in their lifetime, but only the front four are used for each chew. When they get worn out, they are replaced by the stronger ones behind. This exchange happens about six times in the animal’s life. When all teeth are worn out, lone elephants often starve to death. Other members of the pack help those in a group.
18. Imagine what elephant sex is like: elephant sex lasts about 1 minute. After intercourse, the elephants exchange caresses, and the male stays with the female for a few days.
19. Elephants live for about 70 years.
20. When an elephant in a herd dies, they also go through mourning and have a ritual of their own, including covering the dead body.
Elephants are marvelous and intelligent creatures on Earth. In the Hindu religion, they are worshipped as an idol of Lord Ganesh. However, these extraordinary creatures’ numbers are diminishing.
People hunt these beautiful creatures for their tusks. But they forget these animals play an essential role in the ecosystem of the planet.
Many countries have stepped up to prevent their hunting by making strict rules, and animal sanctuaries have been established for their protection. However, these animals should be protected in the wild and not in a controlled environment.