How many muscles are in an Elephant’s trunk?
The trunk (nose) of the African Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana), a large mammal in the Elephantidae family, is its nose or proboscis.
The African Elephant eats grass, trees, bushes, fruit, and bark. It uses its trunk to rip branches from trees to put them in its mouth. It can also pick up small objects of food with its trunk – the trunk is a prehensile appendage. For drinking, its trunk is used as a siphon to suck up water. Its trunk is also used to squirt water over its body to keep cool, trumpet to communicate, and snorkel to breath underwater.
The trunk weighs more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and can be about 2 metres (7-8 feet) long. It is 15 centimetres (6 inches) in diameter at the tip, with two nostrils that are 5 centimetres (2 inches) in diameter.
There are no bones in the trunk.
The African Elephant has two ‘fingers’ at the end of its trunk, which helps it to pick up small objects. The Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) has only one ‘finger’ at the end of its trunk.
There are two types of muscles in an Elephant’s trunk: 1) superficial muscles called dorsals, ventrals, and laterals, and 2) internal muscles called transverse and radiating muscles.
The African Elephant has less trunk muscles than the Asian Elephant, but it is unclear exactly how many muscles are in an Elephant’s trunk.
Safari Africana says there are close to 40,000 separate muscles in an Elephant’s trunk, compared to 600 muscles in a human body. Elephant Aid International says the trunk has over 50,000 individual muscles, and Elephant Nature Park says it has up to 100,00 muslces. The BBC, in a 2019 video, says the trunk has more than 100,000 muscles. Other websites say that an Elephant’s trunk has 8 pairs of muscles on the sides, with 150,000 muscle fascicles (bundles of skeletal muscles).
With so many muscles, the trunk is both rigid and very flexible. Different sections of the trunk can work independently, and can bend or twist, lengthen and shorten, lift heavy weights, and pick up delicate objects.
Location of photographs: Kenya
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
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