We’ve spent many EleFact Fridays sharing the impressive nature and importance of the elephant trunk. The nerves and muscles paired together result in some pretty remarkable skills for the species, but did you know that the skin of the trunk contributes to the success as well?
Studies have found that the skin on the top side of an elephant’s trunk is more pliable and can stretch 15 percent farther than the underside of the trunk. Two captive African elephants were studied as they used their trunks to reach for items outside of their enclosures. Using a high speed camera, it was found that the top and bottom of the trunks were moving in different ways. The top of the trunk is not only more flexible, but the skin on that side is more folded, while the skin on the bottom of the trunk appears to be more wrinkled instead. This undoubtedly contributes to the elephants’ ability to reach downward, the most common gripping style and totally necessary for picking up various items.
Previously, it was believed that trunks were more similar to human tongues; when humans stick out their tongues, the muscular organ stretches uniformly, similar to octopi and squid tentacles, which are also muscular and boneless. However, this new revelation is not only another reminder of how fascinating the elephant species is, but that there are always opportunities to learn about those in the animal kingdom.
Photo of Lady