Depending on the needs of the animal, the proboscis can contract and expand, which is an interesting and very rare property of scientists. How exactly this happened was verified by scientists from the Georgia Technical School of Mechanical Engineering. When people stretch their tongue – muscle-filled tissue similar in composition to an elephant’s trunk – it stretches uniformly. We expected the same thing when we started an experiment in which we dumped small pieces of food at elephants, says Andrew Schulz, research director and doctoral student at Georgia Tech. He and his team photographed two ankle-length African savannah elephants from bran and apple at the Atlanta Zoo.
It turns out that not only the muscles but also the wrinkled skin covering the organ, which appears tough and inelastic, is very important for the dilation of the proboscis. But this is not true. Analyzing the videos captured during the experiment, the scientists noted that thanks to the skin, the proboscis consists of two independent parts. The curved bottom of the hose, which reaches for food, is up to 15 percent. More flexible than the upper part, closer to the skull. When the tip of the hose should reach a prolonged sensitivity, the wrinkled skin of the endoscopic hose is quickly smoothed, allowing the organ to expand.
Long, taller and taller
The Georgia Tech study also found that the elephant’s trunk differs from other boneless and muscle-filled organs found in nature, such as the claws of squid and octopus. Instead of extending evenly, the elephant extends its trunk telescopically, like the handle of an umbrella. First, the end of the hose is pulled out, then, as needed, the next and the next. As a result, the African elephant’s trunk is less than two meters long and can stretch by up to 25 percent. It is half a meter long.
However, the proboscis is not the only organ of an elephant that can move accurately. This can also be done with an elephant’s penis, which is different from other mammals. It is very muscular and can move in all directions on its own. This is because in the case of these large animals, copulation is very difficult, not only because of their size, but also because of the unusual structure of the female reproductive organs. The mouth of the elephant’s vagina is located deep between the legs, under the anus.
This is why an elephant’s penis, even a meter in erection, behaves as if it had its own “brain” – like a snake that bends and turns to find the best way to reach the female’s vagina. He has to do it quickly, because the mating of elephants takes only two minutes. Perhaps the female will not be able to carry the huge lover on her back anymore.
But it has many uses beyond intercourse as well. An elephant can use its penis, like a proboscis, to grip objects (albeit not strictly), lean on it like a fifth leg, or even scratch its stomach. Such a member is a real treasure!
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