The Wildest Things You Never Knew About Elephants
You'll find that elephants are some of the brightest and most majestic creatures in the entire animal kingdom. Their intelligence alone is unbelievable, but these animals offer so much more and are truly crucial to the ecosystems that they inhabit. From their incredible strength to habits within their herds, there are many things about these pachyderms that most people simply do not know. Here are some interesting facts that will completely change your perception of elephants.
A Strong Bond
If you’re lucky enough to see a herd of elephants, you'll notice that they often stay in a tight-knit circle as they travel. While adult males often venture out on their own, the mothers and children in a herd stay together. The herd is led by an elderly matriarch, with females caring for each other's offspring as well.
Given the size of their ears, you might assume that elephants have an incredible sense of hearing. However, these magnificent creatures can pick up sounds in another unusual way: through their feet. Elephants are known for their trumpeting, but they also communicate in low rumbles that can travel several miles. Another elephant can pick up that rumble through its feet.
A Sharp Memory
The idea that elephants never really forget anything is true. Elephants have an amazing ability to remember, which is helpful in their natural habitats when it comes to finding food and water, as well as avoiding danger. Elephants often remember each other and humans, even years after they last saw them.
Elephants really do love getting in the water. They enjoy cooling down and splashing around playfully just as humans do. However, it might come as a surprise that these hefty animals are also very skilled at swimming. It's a must for them at times to be able to travel to find food.
Because of their sensitive spirits and sharp memories, which have been confirmed by researchers, it's no wonder that these animals can also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a great tragedy.
Crying and Sadness
Whether or not elephants have the capability to laugh or cry is still a debated issue among scientists. While some would say that elephants’ behavior can be explained in other ways, others believe that these creatures do have emotions just like humans.
A Fear of Mice?
In various media, particularly in cartoons, giant elephants have long been depicted as being afraid of tiny mice. It's funny to think of. However, zoologists and elephant trainers have conducted experiments to test this theory of elephants actually being afraid of rodents. After some extensive tests, this idea appears to be false.
Ants and Peanuts
Elephants may not be afraid of rodents, but there is a specific insect they hate: ants. Although an ant would certainly die after a stomp from an elephant, the huge creatures avoid these insects. They hate ants because the insects can easily get in their trunks and bother the sensitive nerve endings inside.
Elephants are known to use their powerful trunks to draw in and spray out water. A trunk of a typical elephant can hold about 4 liters of water, though research has shown that the trunk of a big bull can hold up to 10 liters. Well, it appears that some elephants are using their trunks to help others.
Being social creatures, elephants appear to understand what other elephants are feeling. Scientists have seen that, when one elephant is unhappy, other elephants will come to it for comfort. One might even put its trunk into the other's mouth, which is a reassuring action for them.
Very Sensitive Skin
Because of the size of an elephant, many assume that its skin is pretty tough. However, that's not the case. An elephant's skin is actually really sensitive to insects and changes in the environment. Its skin is so sensitive that an elephant can even feel a fly land on its back.
Dirt as Sunscreen
For the record, animals can get sunburned just like humans. Elephants are no exception, especially because their skin is so sensitive. Sunburns can cause huge blisters that take quite a while to heal.
Getting an Earful
Elephants are known for their huge ears, but they aren't just for hearing. In addition to cool baths and mud, elephants can use their ears to cool themselves down on a hot day.
Respect for Elders
As mentioned previously, an elephant herd is typically made mostly of mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters. The herd often is led by the wisest and oldest female, who is respected for her knowledge of where to go for food and ways to respond to various dangers.
Elephants are a huge part of sustaining our ecosystems in the forest and savanna. Across Africa, in particular, elephants are vital in maintaining biodiversity where they live.
Aggression and Defense
Though they’re social and caring, elephants also have an aggressive, dangerous side. This can especially come out when they sense the need to defend themselves. Because of their huge size, these animals are capable of attacking and killing not only other animals but also humans (and have).
The Importance of Trunks
The trunks of elephants are absolutely vital to their survival. Trunks function both as noses and limbs. In addition to using them to breathe while swimming or drink massive amounts of water at one time, elephants are able to easily pick up on smells around them.
Rock Hyrax Connection
Here's a little-known fact about the elephant. Its closest living relative is the rock hyrax, a small herbivore found in Africa and the Middle East. The two animals look nothing alike but share a common ancestor, Tethytheria, which is believed to have gone extinct over 50 million years ago. The animals act very differently but are still closely related.
Being the sensitive souls that they are, it makes sense that elephants mourn the loss of any of their loved ones as humans do. Though no one can know exactly what elephants are feeling, we know that they do show signs of grief when a member of their herd dies. In fact, they don't even have to have known a dead elephant to mourn it.
Surprisingly, it appears that Asian elephants have some pretty nice skills when it comes to math. According to a recent study from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, researchers trained a 14-year-old Asian elephant named Authai to use a computer touch-screen panel.
All elephants, both Asian and African, are very smart creatures. In fact, they’re recognized for being some of the most intelligent animals on Earth. They have the largest brains of any land animal.
With their excellent memory and high intelligence, it’s little surprise that elephants are able to identify different human languages. This can actually help them protect themselves from danger.
Considering all the complications that come with carrying a child, nine months of pregnancy can feel like an eternity for human women. An elephant’s pregnancy is much longer than that. In fact, it's longer than any other mammal.
A Massive Diet
With their massive bodies, elephants need large amounts of food to sustain themselves. Elephants are herbivores, choosing to snack on things like grass, shrubs, leaves, flowers, fruits and bark. To supplement their diets, elephants also dig up the earth to find salt and minerals to eat.
Another little-known fact? Elephants were the very first animals to be featured on YouTube. On April 23, 2005, Jawed Karim made internet history when he uploaded the first video onto a new video-sharing website by the name of YouTube.
Creating Watering Holes
With their extraordinary size and strength, elephants are able to shape the land around them to suit their needs. These intelligent creatures think of the future as they use their tusks, feet and trunks to dig giant holes that then fill up with water from rainfall or groundwater.
While only male Asian elephants have tusks, all African elephants, males and females, have them. These tusks are elongated teeth with about a third of their length hidden inside the skull. Tusks can be quite huge, with the largest recorded tusk being 138 inches long and 214 pounds.
Elephants can communicate over long distances with other family members or other elephants in general. Of course, they can use their trunks to vocalize, but they have another way of talking to each other from miles away.
Poachers often hunt elephants for their ivory tusks, which are worth a lot of money, or just for the sport of it. However, elephants have caught on. Using their quick wit and excellent memory, herds have learned how to avoid poachers.
Though they’re able to loudly trumpet to express their happiness or anger, elephants are typically pretty quiet animals. That doesn't mean that they don't talk at all. Elephants often prefer to use subtle forms of communication to get their points across.