The trunk is an important organ of elephants as it helps them to suck water, capture food twigs even fragile tortilla chips that are probably crushed by the grip of their muscular trunks. A recent video shows that elephant’s suction capability emerged due to their forcefulness inhalation. Researchers found that this animal can inhale at speed of over 336 mph. This speed is faster than the Japan Rail Bullet Train – Shinkansen – having a 199 mph speed.
An elephant trunk has many more functions than how we may think. Thus they can expand its trunk’s diameter by dilating its nostrils. As per a new study, this reduces the thickness of the trunk’s inner wall and increases inner space by 64%.
The trunk weighs 220 pounds thus 100 kilograms. And is capable of many tasks from painting “self-portraits” to grasping cereal flakes by pinching them in the trunk’s tip as found earlier.
Earlier researches showed that elephants can blow air through trunks to handle food that are not in reach. As per Lead study author Andrew Schulz, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Elephants can use their trunks like personal vacuum cleaners to suck up water or dust over themselves.
As reported by Live Science, scientists captured a 34-year-old female African elephant at the Zoo Atlanta, giving her tortilla chips and cubed pieces of rutabaga, using three video cameras. After that, they shoot a video and collected ultrasound measurements of its trunk as it sucks water from an aquarium.
Trunk capacity and pressure were calculated by the study authors using data from their observations. They also consider trunk measurements of the Zoo Atlanta elephant, and a frozen trunk borrowed from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C for this purpose.
The elephant used their forceful inhalation capability to lift small and single objects. For picking more delicate chips elephant used suction in two ways, first picking the chips by sucking them from distance. Second, pressing trunk on chips first and then applied suction to lift it. Scientists reported that chips lifting processes are very gentle and smooth.
Aquarium experiments showed speeds of elephant’s inhalation capabilities. It includes pre-soaked chia seeds in the water which helps to show liquid flow. Schulz said that the elephant hoisted almost 4 liters of liquid in just 1.5 seconds. It initially seemed like more liquid than a trunk could reasonably hold.
Schulz further said in a statement that,
‘‘Initially, it did not make any sense as their nasal passage is very small and inhaling more water than it should. But when we observed ultrasonographic images and observed that nostrils expand that we realized how they did it. Inhaled air makes walls expand and animals can store more water than we originally estimated.”
Researchers told that because of their specialized respiratory system able to handle high lung pressure, Elephants can generate air velocity which is unmatched among land animals. For example, as per the study human lungs able to generate enough suction to lift “a small piece of paper.”
And a person who tries to lift a tortilla chip by inhaling would have to position their nose no more than 0.02 inches (0.4 millimeters) from the target.