The Week (US)

The elephant’s exceptiona­lly useful trunk


Scientists have long marveled at the elephant’s trunk, a muscular appendage the animal uses for everything from drinking and smelling to ripping up trees and issuing 110-decibel trumpet-like blasts. It’s now been discovered that trunks can also be used to suck up food, a skill previously thought to be exclusive to certain fish. The researcher­s worked with Kelly, a 34-year-old African elephant at Zoo Atlanta, reports The Atlantic. When Kelly was presented with large rutabaga cubes, she used her trunk’s tiny “fingers” to grab

them, before maneuverin­g the snack into her mouth. But when offered a tortilla chip, she used suction to lift the chip without breaking it. That talent is a product of Kelly’s massive nostrils. The researcher­s calculated that her schnoz could inhale water at speeds of more than 490 feet per second—30 times faster than humans can sneeze out of ours. The scientists note that elephants may not use suction much in the wild, because dust and debris could clog their airways. But lead researcher Andrew Schulz, from Georgia Tech, says the research neverthele­ss “pushes all of the extremes of what we understand animals to be able to do.”

 ??  ?? Suction power
Suction power

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