The amazing anatomy of an African elephant
An elephant’s trunk is such a familiar feature that we take it for granted, but it’s one of the wonders of the natural world. This portable toolkit can pick up a peanut or uproot a tree. It’s a keen nose, suction pump, power shower, telescopic arm, snorkel, trumpet, fly swatter and lethal weapon rolled into one.
Elephants have poor eyesight but their sense of smell is three times sharper than a bloodhound’s. They can sniff out food and water from miles away. The enormous ears of savannah elephants prevent them from overheating in the baking temperatures. they act as giant fans when flapped, and release heat through a vast network of blood vessels close to the skin.
The tusks that have made elephants a prime target for ivory poachers are actually massive incisor teeth protruding from their upper jaw. Elephants use them to dig for water and minerals, strip bark from trees, lift and move heavy objects, protect their trunk, and defend themselves.
African elephants have brains three times the size of ours, a proverbially great memory, and cognitive powers on a par with chimps and dolphins. They show empathy and even bury and mourn their dead.