The Ears
Trunk Full Of Tales

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Did you know?

  • The African elephant has ears that average at least three time the size of the Asian elephant
  • Ears are used as signaling organs in the African elephant
  • Ears are used to regulate body temperature
  • Ears are used as a protective feature in the African elephant to ward off potential threats.
  • Each elephant's ear is unique and is used as a a type of fingerprint for identification

The ears serve several important functions in the elephant.  When a threat is perceived by the elephant, the ears are spread wide on each side of the head, which produces a huge frontal area.

Baby Orphan Ear Copyright 2001 The David Sheldrick Wildlife TrustThe ear serves a very important function for elephants in regulating its body temperature. Interestingly, temperature control  for an elephant is a constant problem because it has a low surface to volume ratio; despite an elephant's relatively lower metabolic rate, it is more difficult to lose heat through radiation because of its small surface area compared to its volume. Although, the ear serves to help regulate an elephant's body temperature in both species of elephants, it is more effective in African elephants because of their larger ears. With a wide surface area of outer ear tissue, hot blood in the arteries is cooled as it is filtered through the vast network of capillaries and veins.  Thus, the body temperature is regulated with the cooled blood returning to the main body. This is observed more frequently as the outside temperature rises. Actually, it increases a great deal in conditions of little to no wind, and temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. Where it is windy, it is not uncommon to see an elephant will facing down find and extending its ears to allow the cool air to blow across the hot arteries.

A distinguishing feature between the African and Asian elephants can be seen in the size of their ears. The ear of the African elephant is significantly larger--measuring 183 cm by 114 cm in the bush elephant.  The size of the Asian elephant are approximately 60 cm by 30 cm.

The physical makeup of the ear flap is a cartilaginous sheet to which relatively thin skin is closely attached.

EarsOne of the most fascinating features of the elephant ear is its infrasound capabilities for long range communication.  To the average observer of elephants it may seem as though the elephant is incapable of listening and communicating with elephant in the distance.  However studies have proven that elephants can communicate over great distances, many times being warned about an impending danger in the far distance .

Don't forget, an elephants ear's are very soft and sensitive.


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