It is the largest land mammal in the world, but that’s not all! In addition to its weight of up to 7 tonnes for African species, and its memory cited as an example, the elephant is distinguished by other extraordinary aspects: ecological role, anatomy, behavior … lorecentral.org reveals its most unknown feats.
The elephant’s cracked skin is used to regulate its body heat.
When the ambient temperature rises, the sweat produced by our sweat glands allows us to cool off as much as possible. The elephant adopts a different strategy: its wrinkled skin shelters an incredible network of microscopic channels, retaining water and mud with which the pachyderm is regularly covered. This complex mesh retains 5 to 10 times more water than a flat surface!
Because of the resemblance between the skin of pachyderms and the arid landscapes formed by dried mud, some researchers speculated that elephant crevices were the result of a process of contraction. In fact, according to a recent study from the University of Geneva , their epidermis twists under the effect of weak desquamation – the skin peels very little – and a strong production of keratin, a fibrous protein.
2. Elephants regenerate forests
What is the relationship between African forest elephants and plant biodiversity? Zoochory! This term simply refers to the ability of animals to transport seeds, either on their coat or in their digestive system. With their imposing size, pachyderms can consume large fruits whose seeds would be too large to digest for other animals. Traveling long distances every day, they spread their excrement – and their precious contents – over vast areas, ensuring that plants are dispersed on a large scale.
Deprived of their unique seed “carrier”, some plants are therefore doomed to extinction if their original environment is destroyed. However, poaching reduced African forest elephant populations by 63% between 2001 and 2018, endangering the survival of the species, but also the regeneration of forests. ” Without intervention to stop poaching, up to 96 % of Central African forests will undergo major changes in their tree composition, ” warns John Poulsen, researcher in tropical ecology at Duke University (US) and author of a study on the subject .
3. African elephants huge ears allows the animal to regulate the temperature of its body.
If those of Dumbo are a little exaggerated, it is true that the elephant, more precisely that of Africa, has huge ears. They allow it to regulate its temperature.
With a surface area of several square meters, they are devoid of fat and have a host of blood vessels. Thanks to the smoothness of their skin, the blood which circulates there is refreshed, to be practically in direct contact with the ambient air.
Then, it goes back to the whole body, which gives the pachyderm a respite from the heat. In addition, the animal constantly wags its ears , a movement that acts as a giant fan.
On the contrary, the Asian elephant, protected from the sun by the density of the vegetation, does not need such large ears to cool off. They could hinder him in his movements.
3. Like females, male elephants form social groups.
After leaving his family herd, does the young male elephant lead a solitary life? Not necessarily, answers Caitlin O’Connell, author of the book “ The Godfather, in the heart of an elephant clan ” (éd. Actes Sud, 2019). Observing the pachyderms of Etosha National Park in Namibia for twenty years, this scientist described a rather stable group. “ Males of all ages exhibited remarkably friendly behaviors. This was particularly true for adolescents who were touching each other all the time and who maintained bodily contact, ”writes the researcher.
If the dominant male – alpha – will eventually lose his place as leader, arguments often follow reconciliations. Friendships between male pachyderms prove to be invaluable, and helping a comrade in distress will always be rewarded.
4. Elephants perceive infrasound from several kilometers away
Masters in the art of “low masses”! While the sounds audible by the human ear have a vibrating frequency between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, elephants emit and perceive low-frequency sounds – or infrasound – from 16 Hz. This allows them to exchange information up to ten kilometers away, an undeniable advantage for this social species.
Pachyderms are also able to communicate by hitting the ground with their legs, producing seismic waves which reverberate more or less far depending on the substrate, rocky or sandy. A team of British scientists has even managed to identify the behavior of elephants at a distance, according to the “earthquakes” they generate, from “simple” vocalizations to flight from an attacker.
5. The trunk of an elephant contains 150,000 muscles and tendons
” What am I saying, is it a cape ?” It’s a peninsula ! Even Cyrano de Bergerac’s famous nose does not compare with the elephant’s trunk, a versatile appendage that results from the fusion between his nasal organ and his upper lip. Smell is not the only function performed by the proboscis, far from it, since it is also used to explore by touch (tact), but also to drink, sucking up to 7 liters of water , to communicate or even to lift objects as heavy as a tree trunk.
To perform these varied functions, the proboscis contains approximately 150,000 muscles and tendons. By way of comparison, the human body has “only” 639 muscles.
6. Elephants are extremely intelligent animals,
With a brain that weighs 5 kilograms. They can understand more than any animal except whales. They have even been shown to understand some words and follow simple instructions if taught correctly.
7. Elephant dont fear mouse they fear bees
Contrary to popular belief, elephants are not afraid of mice, but of ants and bees. In some parts of Africa, bees are placed around fields to prevent elephants from entering.
8. They have sensitive skin
Although the skin of an elephant may seem quite thick to you, it is actually very sensitive and that is why they take mud baths. This substance protects them from ultraviolet rays and insect bites.
9. They eat and pass a lot of gas
10. Their body is well adapted to crossing rivers
11. The importance of an elephant trunk
The elephant’s trunk is the result of the fusion of the nose and upper lip , and a baby elephant must learn to use it just like a human child must learn to walk. It will take some time before he can control the 100,000 (!) Muscles that make the adult proboscis the most versatile of all mammalian appendages. It’s a nose, an arm and a hand at the same time … a real all-in-one. Their trunk can siphon up to 9 liters of water in a single sip, which is 3 times our average need for a whole day. In 5 minutes, they can drink the equivalent of 3 bathtubs. Elephants need so much water for the simple reason that the rate of evaporation from their skin is about 5 liters per hour.
12. Elephants can kneel on their hind legs
Few animals are able to kneel on their hind legs , and yet this is how elephants hit ticks that attack them! Few of the skin parasites survive such violent blows. Mud has several health benefits and that’s great, since our pachyderm friends love to frolic in it, which is also another way to deal with parasites. The mud maintains the skin, acts as a sunscreen and cools the elephant. There is nothing better for cooling the blood.
13. Elephant memory
Scientists assume that they have some kind of cognitive map that allows them to record information more easily and over a long period of time.
14. Elephants use mud to protect themselves from the sun
Although their skin appears thick, elephants have sensitive skin that can get sunburned.
To counter the harmful rays of the sun, elephants cover themselves with mud. When emerging from a bath in a river, elephants often throw themselves into the mud for protection. And when baby elephants are sleeping, the adults often stand on top of them to protect them from the sun.
15 . Elephants never forget a friend or foe
The memory of elephants is legendary, and rightly so. They are able to remember other elephants and humans for years, if not decades.
Elephants are able to find water points even after a long period of time or a great distance. They are also able to remember how to house water or food points when needed. This is one of the reasons why it is essential for baby calves to spend a lot of time with the older members of the family. Thus, thanks to the knowledge transmitted, they will be able to find their own way when they are adults.
16 . Elephants are able to distinguish different human languages
Elephants are not only very good at identifying and remembering individuals, but they can also identify different human languages, even the speaker’s gender and age.
In a study published in the journal PNAS, researchers used the voices of speakers from two different ethnic groups: the Maasai, a group known to kill elephants, and the Kamba, who do not kill them. When the elephants heard the voices of the Maasai, they tended to act defensively by clustering very tightly and sniffing the air to investigate. Additionally, researchers found that elephants also responded to the speaker’s age and gender, becoming restless upon hearing the voices of adult Maasai men compared to those of boys or women.
17. Elephants are able to hear through their paws
Elephants are able to send vocalizations over a long distance. The species produces a variety of sounds including sniffles, growls, calls and more. But they are also able to pick up sounds in more unusual ways.
Elephants can also communicate in a low rumble of up to 10 km. In addition, the elephant hears this call through its feet.
Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, a biologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., Has found that elephant vocalizations and kicks resonate at a frequency that other elephants can detect through the ground. Sensitive nerve endings in the legs and trunk allow elephants to pick up these “underground” or infrasonic messages.
18. Elephants are great swimmers
It’s no surprise that elephants like to play in the water. They are known to splash with the proboscis. But they are also very good swimmers.
Elephants float enough to stay on the surface and use their powerful legs to paddle. They use their trunk as a snorkel to cross deep water and are therefore able to breathe normally even when submerged. They are able to travel long distances in this manner.
19 . Elephants help other frightened, sick and dying elephants
Elephants are very social and intelligent creatures, and they exhibit behaviors that we humans readily recognize as compassion, kindness, and selflessness.
Researchers conducted a study showing that when an elephant is in distress, other nearby elephants will respond with calls and contacts intended to console the individual. This is a behavior so far observed only in humans, monkeys, canines and corvids.
The elephants will not only comfort those in distress, but they will also take care of the sick and injured.
20. Elephants can suffer from PTSD
We now know that elephants are sensitive souls, with close bonds with family members, a need for solace and a long memory. It is therefore not surprising that we have seen symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in elephants going through a tragedy, for example when they see a fellow man being killed by poachers. Baby calves orphaned by poachers will exhibit PTSD-like symptoms even decades later. Elephants rescued from abusive situations show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder long after finding safety in a sanctuary.
21. Elephants need their elders
African elephants live in a matriarchal society. The herd is led by the most knowledgeable female, usually the oldest, as she has accumulated more essential knowledge such as where to get food and water and how to react to a variety of dangers.
Elephants stay with their herd all their lives, or if they have to leave, they stay for at least more than a decade to learn enough to survive. The information transmitted by the elders is essential.
22 . An elephant’s trunk is essential to its survival.
Just as the knowledge imparted is important for survival, so too is an elephant’s trunk. An individual simply cannot survive without it.
An elephant’s trunk is a fusion of its upper lip and nose. Comprised of over 100,000 muscles, this enormous appendix is ??both powerful and extremely skillful. An elephant can use it to pull off a branch or to collect a single blade of grass.
Since elephants eat around 240 kilograms of food per day, they must be able to feed on small vegetation. The elephant also uses its trunk for drinking. It can suck up to two liters of water at a time.
23 . The elephant’s closest relative is the Cape Hyrax (Procavia capensis)
As surprising as it is, the elephant’s closest living relative is the Cape Hyrax, a small, furry herbivore native to Africa and the Middle East. Manatees and dugongs are also closely related to the elephant.
The manatee, the Cape hyrax and the elephant share a common ancestor, the Tethytherian, which became extinct more than 50 million years ago. Although they seem to act in totally different ways, they remain closely related.
Despite appearances, the Cape Hyrax still has some physical traits common to elephants. It has tusks growing on the incisors, flattened fingernails at the top of the fingers, and several similarities between the reproductive organs.
24. Elephants honor the bones of their dead
Elephants seem to express more than interest when they stumble upon the bones of their fellows. Given their long memory and family ties, it is likely that when elephants touch the bones of another elephant, they experience sadness.
25. Elephants can cry
It seems that the elephants are crying and laughing. But some say we risk anthropomorphizing behaviors that could have other explanations. However, there seems to be a lot of evidence that elephants cry tears of emotion.
There is the famous example of Raju, the elephant who cried when rescuers freed him from a life of torture. The elephant lived in chains all his life, he lived mainly on plastic and paper for food. The rescue became even more emotional when Raju began to cry as the authorities removed his shackles.