Interesting both physically and socially, there is a wealth of “fun facts” regarding elephants. Please note, however, that the information contained herein refers to the “average” animal and that there are a number of variations from elephant to elephant.
DIET, DIGESTION, GAS AND MANURE
Elephants can be described as either eating machines or manure manufacturers, depending on their activity at the time.
Elephants are non-ruminant herbivores. They do not chew cud, ruminate or belch as ruminant animals (e.g. cattle, bison, goats, deer) do. Instead they produce methane gas – LOTS AND LOTS OF GAS. Properly equipped, a car could travel 20 miles on the amount of methane produced by one elephant in a single day.
Elephants may feed for up to 16 hours a day. In the wild one animal can consume as much as 600 pounds of food in a single day, although 250 – 300 pounds is a more typical amount. In a zoo, a typical adult elephant may eat 4-5 bales of hay and 10 – 18 pounds, or 4.5 to 8 kg, of grain a day. This amounts to a yearly quantity of more than 29,000 kg of hay and 2700 kg of feed per animal,
The normal daily water consumption is 25 – 50 gallons per animal, or 100 – 200 liters.
Elephants digest their food with less than 50% efficiency. The massive amount eaten coupled with an inefficient digestive system means lots of manure – LOTS AND LOTS OF MANURE. An elephant defecates from 12 to 15 times a day, a daily quantity of 220 – 250 pounds. This adds up to a yearly quantity of over 85,000 pounds of manure, more than 40 tons, per adult elephant.
Generally, the size of the ears is directly related to the amount of heat dissipated through them. The difference in ear size between African and Asian elephants can be based on their geographic range. The African elephant usually lives in a hotter, sunnier climate than the Asian elephant and needs larger ears to aid in thermoregulation.
Although ears help to regulate body temperature in both species, they are more effective in African elephants in that regard because the ears are larger. Flapping the ears helps to cool an elephant in two ways. In addition to enabling the ears to act as a fan and move air over the rest of the elephant’s body, flapping also cools the blood as it circulates through the veins in the ears. As the cooler blood re-circulates through the elephant’s body, the animal’s core temperature will decrease several degrees.
The hotter it is the faster the elephants will flap its ears. On a windy day, however, an elephant may find it easier to simply stand facing into the wind and hold its ears outward to take advantage of the breeze.
An elephant may also spray water on its ears, which also will cool down the blood before it returns to the rest of the body.
Large ears also trap more sound waves than smaller ones.
The ears of an African elephant are enormous. Each ear is about six feet from top to bottom and five feet across. A single ear may weigh as much as one hundred pounds.
When an elephant is angry or feels threatened, it may respond by spreading its ears wide and facing whatever it may perceive as a threat. The additional 10 foot ear span tacked on to an elephant’s wide body makes an already imposing animal look even bigger than it may usually appear.
BIG, REALLY, REALLY BIG ANIMALS
An elephant’s heart constitutes about 0.5% of the animal’s total body weight, so if an elephant weighs 10,000 lb, then the elephant’s heart would be expected to weigh 50 lb – if an elephant weighs 4500 kg, then that elephant’s heart may weigh 27 kg.
The intestines of an elephant may be 19 meters in length, or more than 60 feet long.
At 5 inches, or 12.7 centimeters long, elephants have the longest eyelashes in the world.
The brain of an elephant is larger than that of any other land mammal, weighing between 8 and 12 pounds, whereas a human’s brain weighs 3 pounds on average. The growth and development of an elephant’s brain is similar to that of a human’s. Both are born with small brain masses. Similar to a human being, there is considerable growth and development in the brain as a young elephant grows up. As the mass of the brain increases so does the learning ability of young elephants. Brain size provides a rough measure of mental flexibility; large mammalian brains are associated with superior intelligence and complex social behavior.
The elephant’s body has a number of special features because it is so large and heavy. The skull, parts of which are six inches thick, contains many air spaces making the inside appear something like a honeycomb or sponge. This adaptation has allowed the skull to grow to a large size without enormous weight. The legs of an elephant are in an almost vertical position under the body, like the legs on a table. This design provides strong support for the massive body and huge weight that the legs have to carry. It also allows elephants to sleep standing up without the risk of their legs buckling.
The skin on an elephant can weigh as much as 2000 pounds, or over 900 kg.
Elephant skin lacks moisture so it must be loose, especially around the joints, to provide the necessary flexibility for motion.
The skin of the African elephant is more wrinkled than that of the Asian elephant. The wrinkles in an elephant’s skin help to retain moisture, keeping the skin in good condition.
The pink or light brown areas of skin on some Asian elephants are from a lack of pigmentation. This lack of pigmentation can be influenced by genetics, nutrition, habitat and age. The condition is not seen in African elephants.
The skin can be as thick as an inch on areas such as the back and as thin as 1/10 of an inch on the ears and around the mouth.
Despite it’s rough and dry appearance, the skin is delicate and may be soft to the touch.
The natural color is grayish black, but an elephant usually appears to be the same color as the soil where the elephant lives. This is because elephant’s take frequent mudbaths or dust with soil to protect against insects, to control body temperature, to condition and moisturize the skin, and to protect against sunburn.
One way a person regulates body temperature is by sweating – on a person, sweat glands are located throughout their skin. Elephants have very few sweat glands. The few sweat glands that an elephant has are located on the foot, near the cuticles. This results in a skin that is dry to the touch but soft and supple. If you look at an elephant on a hot day, you may see a wet area around the top of their toenails.
The only visible glands that are found on the skin of an elephant are the mammary glands and the temporal glands. Elephants have one temporal gland on each side of the head between the eye and the ear. The temporal gland is a large gland, much like a sweat gland, that sometimes produces a secretion that trickles down the side of the face. In female elephants, these glands may become active when the animal gets very excited. In male elephants, the temporal glands are active when the male is in “musth”, which is a condition very much like “rut” in a deer.
In addition to their tusks, which are modified incisors, an elephant will have four molars, with a molar located in each jaw. An African elephant will go through six sets of molars in a lifetime. Later in life, a single molar can be 10-12 inches long and weigh more than eight lb., or 3.6 kg.
An elephant’s molar is wide and flat, perfect for grinding. The surface of the molar differs between Asian and African elephants. The ridges on the chewing surface of an Asian elephant’s molar will run in parallel lines, while the ridges on the surface of an African elephant’s molar will form a diamond shape. This diamond shape led taxonomists to name the genus for African elephants, “Loxodonta”, which in Latin refers to this diamond shape.
There is no real tooth socket. As a molar is formed and utilized by the elephant, it passes through the jaw from back to front in a conveyor belt fashion. There are only four molars in use in an elephant’s mouth at any one time, but an elephant may go through six sets of molars in it’s lifetime. The final set typically erupts when the animal is in its early forties and must last for the rest of its life.
After these last sets of molars wear smooth, an elephant will have difficulty chewing and processing food, which in turn begins to contribute to a decline in the animals overall well-being. Ultimately the progression of teeth can dictate the length of an elephant’s life.
In addition to elephants, manatees and kangaroos also have teeth that move forward in the jaw in this fashion.
Elephants can fine tune their body temperature using “hot spots” scattered around their bodies, according to research which questions the widely held belief that the animals use their giant ears to stay cool.
With their thick hides and lack of sweat glands, it has long been thought that elephants rely upon their distinctive large ears and bathing in rivers to stay cool in hot climates. New research, however, has revealed that the world’s largest land animals have a secret trick to control their own body temperatures. Using thermal cameras, biologists have discovered that the creatures’ bodies are covered in “hot spots” that can help them lose heat.
By directing their blood supply near to the surface of small patches of skin scattered around their bodies, elephants can lose heat rapidly, allowing them to fine-tune their internal temperature. Scientists have long been puzzled by temperature regulation in elephants. Typically, animals with large bodies tend to retain more heat because, relative to their bulk, they have a small surface area for heat to escape from. Elephants, with their heavyweight frames, would appear to be at a disadvantage in the fierce heat of their African and Asian habitats, especially because they lack sweat glands – used for cooling by other mammals – and have tough hides to protect them from spiny bushes and trees.
It was assumed by biologists that the creatures, which weigh up to 13 tons (12 tonnes) when fully-grown, had evolved large ears to help them stay cool. The skin in the ears is thinner, so blood pumped into them cools down more readily.
But findings by researchers at two universities in Vienna have revealed that elephants also able to cool down by increasing the blood flow to skin patches in other parts of their bodies.
Nicole Weissenböck, an ecologist at the city’s University of Veterinary Medicine, who led the research, said: “Elephants are the largest terrestrial mammals on earth today. “They are called pachyderms (from the Greek language for “thick skin”) because of their supposed thick and insensitive skin. “Our study clearly shows that this is only a myth – in fact the elephant’s skin must have more regional concentrations of vascular networks that has previously been appreciated.
“It is a fine-tuning mechanism in heat regulation.” The researchers took thermal images of six African elephants at Vienna Zoo as they moved between outdoor and indoor environments to see how the temperature on their skin surface would change. Bright yellow and white colours indicated the parts of their bodies from which the animals were losing the most heat. The researchers found up to 15 “hot spots” scattered all over an elephant’s body surface, in addition to large patches on the ears. The study, which is published in the Journal of Thermal Biology, shows how these patches expand as the air temperature increases and more blood flows nearer to the skin surface. Subsequent experiments showed that elephants in the wild use the same “thermal windows” to control their body temperature.
Elephants have two additional ways to stay cool: ear-flapping, which creates a breeze, and bathing, which cools the creatures when the water evaporates from their skin. Together with these tricks, the skin hot spots allow the animals to keep their body temperature constant at about 36 degrees C – one degree less than humans. Professor Fritz Vollrath, an expert on elephant behaviour at Oxford University, said it was possible the hot spots provided localised cooling for specific organs. He said: “This is an interesting study as it shows that elephants can and do flood blood through their ears independently and can open and close specific areas of their skin for blood cooling.”
Source Article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7663160/Elephants-use-hot-spots-to-stay-cool.html