EleFact Friday: Ways to Chill Out

Here in the United States, parts of the country are starting to experience some spring-like weather, as we reach warmer temperatures. Although humans have their own ways of staying cool, today we want to discuss how elephants manage to beat the heat in the warmer months. 

The most obvious tool to keep cool would be those big ears, but today we want to talk about the scientific marvel that exists in their skin. By studying and measuring the heat and moisture levels released by a herd of 13 elephants, it was found that their skin effectively opens up at air temperatures as low as 10° to 12° Celcius (approximately 50° Fahrenheit), which allows them to perspire through the pores in the cuticles on their feet. Scientists reported in The Journal of Experimental Biology that the skin of elephants is permeable, allowing them to lose an increased amount of moisture through evaporation; this cools them down faster, meaning they don’t need to sweat in the way other animals must.  This also results in a quicker rate of hydration, which is why it’s important that they always have access to abundant amounts of cool, clean water. 

The wrinkly, cracked texture of their skin also aids in the cooling process. The moisture in the environment can pool on the surface of their leather-like skin for longer, rather than evaporating off immediately. 

Lady, looking cool with her lovely wrinkles


  1. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    So…ANOTHER question. We know Lady’s feet (and those of many elephants in captivity), are severely compromised. If they perspire through the cuticles on their feet, and those feet are compromised, does this limit their ability to stay cool?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      I don’t believe there has been any definitive research into that. What we can tell you is from our own experience. We have seen elephants with significantly compromised feet, who still sweat between their toes. You can see when it’s wet. So while they may have some issues if that area is damaged, like when elephants have a severe blowout around the nail, they can still probably sweat otherwise, so it shouldn’t cause any substantial issues. Elephants like Pelusa, who had blowouts so severe it was hard to tell where her toenails even were, probably had enough repeated damage to that area that her ability would be compromised.

  2. REPLY
    Julie says

    Oh. I think that’s the most precious elephant pic I’ve ever seen. I love her eyelashes. I’m swooning!

  3. REPLY
    Christine J Strickling says

    Wow! This is amazing. Elephants are wondrous creatures.

  4. REPLY
    Wim says

    Lady looking beautiful as ever. Another important lesson told. It’s no wonder elephants have survived for so long.
    It’s our duty to safeguard a future for wild elephants all over the world.

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