7 Facts You Didn't Know About Elephant Trunks

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Elephant_skeleton.jpgAn elephant's trunk is the most conspicuous part of its body, but gaze upon an elephant skeleton and you'd never realize that such an appendage existed, as there are no bones to mark its presence. A fusion of the nose and upper lip, the trunk is an elephant's most versatile tool, used for breathing, smelling, touching, grasping, and producing sound. It's probably the most amazing body part in the animal kingdom!

Here are seven facts you didn't know about elephant trunks:

1. Elephant trunks can lift up to 770 pounds! That's right, an elephant can hoist Ulambayaryn Byambajav, a 340-lb world champion sumo wrestler, like he was a bag of peanuts.

2. Elephants are the only animals that can snorkel without aid. By holding the tips of their trunks above the water's surface, elephants can traverse rivers totally submerged. They simply walk across the riverbed.

elephantswim.jpg3. Elephant Trunks actually have "fingers." African elephants have two while Asian elephants only have one. That's why the former is able to grasp objects by pinching the opposing tips of the trunk while the latter must wrap its trunk round objects like a boa constrictor.

elephant trunks2.jpg4. The elephant's trunk contains over 40,000 muscles, divided into as many as 150,000 individual units! Compare that to the human body, which contains a paltry 639 muscles, and you start to get an idea how intricate the appendage is.

5. Thanks to its trunk, an elephant sports a sense of smell up to four times as sensitive as a bloodhound's. It's been reported that an elephant can smell water several miles away! Key to this ability are millions of receptor cells housed in the animal's upper nasal cavity.

6. Humans have a body part similar to a trunk, and that's the tongue. (The nose, of course, is also analogous.) Both the tongue and the trunk are muscular hydrostats -- body parts composed almost exclusively of muscle tissue that utilize water pressure to move. These body parts have muscles oriented in many varied directions, which grant acrobatic maneuverability.

7. Elephant trunks are stunted at birth, then rapidly elongate over the course of a few days. Calves (elephant babies) aren't at all adept at using these complex appendages at first, so they often tread on their own trunks. Luckily for human children, they don't have to worry about tripping over their noses, only their feet.


(Images: 1. Skimsta 2. R. Saxon)





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