Written by: Flo Montgomery
I caught these images on camera recently while watching elephants with their babies enjoying a swim in the Ruaha’s Mdonya sand river – it is flowing now with the recent rains and the grass is lush and verdant all around – the elephants are in heaven!
I noticed some of the young elephants were twisting their trunks around each other in complex motions and was pondering about how amazing these extra appendages of theirs are.
Did you know these three things about the elephant trunk?
1. The human tongue is similar to an elephant’s trunk. Both the tongue and the trunk are muscular hydrostats – body parts composed almost exclusively of muscle tissue that utilise water pressure to move, the muscles providing volume constancy and reversible torsional force.
2. The trunk of an elephant is highly dynamic, able to move in a variety of directions with immense strength and precision, though there is no skeletal structure in the trunk.
3. The elephant’s trunk is made up of an incompressible ‘fluid’ (i.e. tightly packed muscle fibers) that maintains its volume to remain constant through a variety of movements. These muscles are arranged in three patterns (perpendicular to the long axis of the organ, parallel to the long axis, or wrapped helically, or obliquely, a round the long axis) and provide versatility to the movement of the trunk.
Maybe this is why the baby elephants are often seen experimenting to find out what they can do with this interesting appendage!
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