Although we’re very partial to those of the feline persuasion, we love to recognize other members of the animal kingdom, especially those that have their own day! Such is the case with the elephant, today is Elephant Appreciation Day. I found these interesting facts about elephants on Smithsonianmag.com and thought I’d share:
- Like human toddlers, great apes, magpies and dolphins, elephants have passed the mirror test—they recognize themselves in a mirror
- Elephants don’t like peanuts. They don’t eat them in the wild, and zoos don’t feed them to elephants in captivity.
- Elephants can get sunburned, so they take care to protect themselves by throwing sand on their backs and on their head. To protect their young, adult elephants will douse them in sand and stand over the little ones as they sleep.
- African elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet, and the females undergo the longest pregnancy—22 months.
- Despite their size, elephants can be turned off by the smallest of creatures. A study found elephants avoid eating a type of acacia tree that is home to ants. Underfoot, ants can be crushed, but an elephant wants to avoid getting the ants inside its trunk, which is full of sensitive nerve endings.
- An African elephant can detect seismic signals with sensory cells in its feet and also “hear” these deep-pitched sounds when ground vibrations travel from the animal’s front feet, up its leg and shoulder bones, and into its middle ear. By comparing the timing of signals received by each of its front feet, the elephant can determine the sound’s direction.
- Female elephants live in groups of about 15 animals, all related and led by a matriarch, usually the oldest in the group. She decides where and when they move and rest, day to day and season to season.
- Male elephants leave the matriarch groups between age 12 and 15. But they aren’t loners—they live in all-male groups. In dry times, males will form a linear hierarchy that helps them avoid injuries from competing for water.
- Elephants have evolved a sixth toe, which starts off as cartilage attached to the animal’s big toe and converts to bone as the elephant ages.
- The elephant’s closest living relative is the rock hyrax, a small furry mammal that lives in rocky landscapes across sub-Saharan Africa and along the coast of the Arabian peninsula.
For more cool elephant facts, go to Smithsonianmag.com