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Study reports elephants use their trunks to blow their food within reach (with video goodness!)

Seriously, Science?By Seriously ScienceNovember 24, 2015 9:58 PM


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[embed][/embed] This report from Japan might just win the award for the cutest research of 2015. It describes how two elephants use their trunks like leaf blowers in order to move food into reach. The elephants, who live at the Kamine Zoo, control the number and length of the blows depending on how far away the food is. The video shows one elephant rounding up leaves with great accuracy... better than any rake I've ever seen!

Asian elephants acquire inaccessible food by blowing.

"Many animals acquire otherwise inaccessible food with the aid of sticks and occasionally water. As an exception, some reports suggest that elephants manipulate breathing through their trunks to acquire inaccessible food. Here, we report on two female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Kamine Zoo, Japan, who regularly blew to drive food within their reach. We experimentally investigated this behaviour by placing foods in inaccessible places. The elephants blew the food until it came within accessible range. Once the food was within range, the elephants were increasingly less likely to blow as the distance to the food became shorter. One subject manipulated her blowing duration based on food distance: longer when the food was distant. These results suggest that the elephants used their breath to achieve goals: that is, they used it not only to retrieve the food but also to fine-tune the food position for easy grasping. We also observed individual differences in the elephants' aptitude for this technique, which altered the efficiency of food acquisition. Thus, we added a new example of spontaneous behaviour for achieving a goal in animals. The use of breath to drive food is probably unique to elephants, with their dexterous trunks and familiarity with manipulating the act of blowing, which is commonly employed for self-comfort and acoustic communication." Related content: NCBI ROFL: The road to baby torture is a slippery slope. NCBI ROFL: Visual cues given by humans are not sufficient for Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) to find hidden food. NCBI ROFL: Heat loss in Dumbo: a theoretical approach.

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