The ivory trunk allows them to suck food

Do you know the weight of elephant carcasses? The appendix weighs over 100 pounds! However, these animals show delicacy when they catch fragile plants. This skill destabilized a team of American researchers who decided to understand it better.

Air and water play horn

The African elephant eats about 200 kilograms of plants a day, which it catches with its trunk. The latter also allows it to use air and water to act on its environment. As early as 1871, Charles Darwin noticed that elephants could blow air on an object out of reach. They also love to spray water all over their bodies, and can use the trunk as a respirator when swimming in deep water! In a new study published on June 15, 2021 Journal of the Royal Society Interface, this is another ability that scientists have tried to analyze: the use of sucking these animals for food. How does the flow of air through their nostrils allow them to catch objects?

The researchers performed several experiments in parallel. They significantly filmed an elephant at an Atlanta zoo to see if it could catch different foods by vacuuming: rutabage cubes of different sizes and fragile tortilla chips. He was also invited to siphon a pool of scented water while ultrasound was performed to measure the diameter of his nasal wall. Finally, they used a mathematical model to relate the ability of an elephant to suck to lung capacity and nostril size.

30 times faster than human sneezing

An American study reveals that elephants’ nostrils can expand by 30%, which allows them to increase their nasal volume by 64%. And that’s not all: these animals can suck at a speed of more than 150 meters per second, which is almost 30 times faster than a human sneeze! It is the impressive speed that allows them to catch Swede cubes with their proboscis, but also more fragile foods such as tortilla chips 500 micrometers thick. Catching food by sucking, elephants »perform behaviors previously thought to be restricted to fish“, the study emphasizes.

Can people also vacuum objects by vacuuming? Yes, according to the authors of this new study. “Although humans can generate the same lung pressure as elephants, applying our equation reveals that their lung volume and nostril diameter are large enough to pick up a small piece of paper.“. However, don’t expect to lift the blade, the size of the nostrils and the capacity of the lungs do not allow it. The human nose should be 0.4 mm away from food so that it can lift thanks to suction through the nose.” Leakage “between the nose and cartilage. elephant trunks have already inspired the creation of robots in the past and this new discovery still needs to affect engineers.

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