Friday, November 30, 2012

A selection of elephant facts

There are a number of things that I have learned about elephants over the last few years that have surprised or amazed me. I thought today I would simply share a few of my favorite elephant facts. 

The first is particularly close to home as it has been the focus of my own research with elephants. Elephants are one of eight species that are capable of self-awareness. That is, along with the great apes (humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans), dolphins and magpies, elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror. It is pretty amazing that they belong to such a small group of animals that are aware of themselves and can therefore understand others to a much higher level.

Secondly, any ideas where the only place an elephant can sweat from is? It is in fact from in between their toenails. No one knows why it is from here that they sweat, but we do know that they don’t sweat from anywhere else.

A slightly more random one: one of the closest living relatives to the elephant is the hyrax, totaling a massive 4kg (as opposed to their 4 ton relatives). It is due to the same specialized wrist bone that they are classified as taxonomically close relatives. 
Rock Hyrax
There is a myth that elephants are afraid of mice. I don’t know if this is true or not but I do know that African elephants are scared of bees. Yes, it’s hard to imagine an animal as big as an elephant being scared of anything. But present them with a swarm of bees and they literally run in the opposite direction, as the youtube clip shows. 

Last but not least: twice the circumference of an elephant’s foot equals their height. This is much less profound but I think more unbelievable. I mean, look at the photo below. I am surprised every time one of the vets here demonstrates this fact; their feet just don’t seem big enough! But it is true every time. It is also a useful fact as it means that you can tell how big a wild elephant is just by looking at their footprint.

So there you have it, a few little facts that can be used to fill in the next awkward silence or amaze guests at a dinner party.

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