The elephant is the largest land animal and has no
natural enemies.They live in family herds comprising
of up to twenty adult females and their young, under
the leadership of the oldest elephant , the matriarch.
The exception to this is the adult males who are solitary
nomads attracted to a family group only when one of
its mature adults or "cows" is ready to mate. They are
found in Africa and Asia.
In this article I will restrict myself to the trunk
because of its importance to the elephant.
An elephant can use its trunk to carry a tree, pick
up a peanut, have a drink or take a shower.The Elephant
trunk is the modified nose and upper lip lined with
as many as forty plus individual muscles that allow
it to bend and hold like an arm or hand. It is also
so sensitive that it can pick up a single blade of grass.
The trunk of an African Elephant has two lips at the
end while that of the Asian Elephant has only an upper
one. The six main functions of the elephant trunk include:
Sucking: The Elephant trunk sucks up to fourteen litres
of water then blows it into its mouth or sprays its
body to keep cool. It can also suck in dust and spray
its body to reduce the parasite load.
Feeding: The trunk is used to break off tree branches,
pick off leaves and grass and even pluck fruits and
put them into its mouth. For the elephant to feed, the
trunk is indispensable.
As a sense organ, the elephant trunk is its "fingure"
as well as its nose. The elephant has a strong sense
of smell. Raising the trunk up and swaying it from side
to side, it can determine the location of friends, enemies,
and food sources, much like a periscope. To follow a
track, an elephant sweeps its trunk over the ground
like a metal detector. It also uses the tip of its trunk
to investigate another's genitalia or mouth for clues
about its identity, sex, age, and reproductive status.
Defence: The elephant defends itself by grasping and
flinging the enemy using its trunk.
The trunk also plays a major role in social interactions
such as play wrestling,caressing, during courtship and
even in the mother baby relationship.
Communication: One of the many ways of communication
in the rich elephant language is rumbles and trumpets.The
former is low frequency infrasound while the later is
audible to humans.It is the trunk that produces these
sounds, much like a wind instrument:
The elephant trunk is the most important and versatile
appendage.With it ,the elephant can carry a tree,pick
up a peanut, have a drink or take a shower. It serves
the elephant in at least six critical functions: drinking
and feeding, defence, social interactions, communication,
smell and touch, body cleansing and temperature control.
About the Author
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