It is no secret that elephants are one of the largest animals, coming in just behind several species of whales when it comes to size comparison. But with their large size comes some interesting anatomical aspects that help them maintain balance, strength, and overall health.
Up until recently, research has suggested that larger species of animals are far more at risk of injury from falls than smaller species, which makes sense. The ability to maintain balance is critical for large species, elephants included. It has been found that elephant vision, which we have shared about in previous EleFacts, aids in making sure that the animals stay steady and upright like humans, who rely on feedback from our limbs and the vestibular system in our ear. Elephants’ large ears also help keep them balanced.
In addition, they also have almost vertical limbs that allow them to stand for long periods of time while supporting their heavy body weight. The bones of their limbs are arranged in direct line with one another, similar to a pillar providing support for a large building. This vertical nature of their legs and feet prevents elephants from jumping or running with all four feet off the ground, but aids in their ability to walk forward and backward on very narrow strips of ground.
Despite the large appearance of the head of the elephant on its own, the skull itself does not weigh that much compared to the rest of their bodies. Composed of over 50 individual bones and weighing in at around 51 kilograms (114 pounds), each individual bone is made up of sinuses, relieving some of the weight of the head.
Elephants are large and mighty and we are continuously amazed by what their bodies and minds are able to endure, but more importantly, in all the ways that they are able to heal and recover.
Photo of Mara and Bambi