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The incredible elephant trunk, and the baby's inadequacy at using it.

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The incredible elephant trunk, and the baby's inadequacy at using it.


One of the things I like to watch more than elephants, is baby elephants. A herd of elephants came through the other day and there was a very young one with them. I find it hysterical watching baby elephants struggle in trying to control and use their trunks. The elephant trunk is an amazing thing. The trunk is a large extension of the upper lip and nose, which are merged into a single organ. Anatomically it’s a highly complex structure, made up of successive layers of muscle running in different directions, and branching networks of nerve fibres. The muscles of the cheek, forehead, nose and upper lip work together, which makes the trunk extremely mobile and flexible. Ive read that the trunk has 6 pairs of muscles, divided into over 100,000 units. With such an intricate system as this, no wonder it takes time and practice to learn how to use and control the trunk. After a few futile attempts at trying to collect some grass, being exasperated ( I know I shouldn’t say/humanize this but Ive seen them thrash their trunks around and start running all over the place when they couldn’t use them properly- almost like throwing a little tantrum??!! ) , the baby elephant often drops to its front knees and attempts to take in the grass directly through its mouth.

The trunk is used most importantly as a hand to gather food, although it also has many other functions. It plucks or pulls up bunches of grass, wrapping each into a bundle by curling the end of its trunk backward around it, knocks the earth off, by banging it against its legs or chest, and puts the food into its mouth. The elephant may hold it there with its triangular lower lip, until it has finished chewing the current mouthful, and its molar teeth are free to deal with the next. Then it will take the grass into its mouth with its tongue. It can do all three at once: graze, hold food, and chew.

This briefly explains a little about the trunk, I would like to chat some more about it at a later date. To watch a video of that breeding herd and its young calf, go to url:




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