Elephants are using their trunks as leaf-blowers in order to reach food according to a new study published in the journal Animal Cognition. Japanese scientists from both the Kyoto University and the Graduate University for Advanced Studies (SOKENDAI) have published the study, in which they show evidence of elephants being capable to blow air through their trunks in order to reach food that is far away.
- Scientists have published evidence of elephants blowing air through their trunks in order to reach food.
- The findings suggest that elephants have cognitive skills than help them calculate the distance of the food and how much air is needed to blow it closer.
- The scientists consider the use of air in order to catch food as being proof of the fact that elephants are capable of using tools to gather food.
What is more amazing is that, according to the information presented in the study, the amount of air that is blown through the trunk is relative the distance of the food, which would indicate that elephants possess enough cognitive skill to be able to use their trunks and the air as tools in order to reach and gather more food, as they become more and more aware of their surrounding environment.
During the study a group of elephants at the Kamine Zoo in Japan was observed, mostly two female elephants named Mineko and Suzuko which were housed at the zoo at the time. Charles Darwin had observed that elephants were able to reach food by manipulating the amount of air in their trunks many years ago, but this could not be confirmed as the elephants could not be observed in a natural setting as an experiment.
But the Japanese scientists conducting the study found a way to experiment the phenomenon in a natural setting by using an ingenious method. Their idea was to map out a grid within the confines of a ditch at the mini zoo and then placed different kinds of food like apples, bamboo, potatoes, fallen leaves or hay in different sections of the enclosure.
They also set up video cameras in different key points of the artificial habitat and observed the animals for 32 days. They could then see the elephants blowing air through their trunks to change the position of the food in the enclosure in an effort to bring in closer to where their trunks would be able to reach it.
The scientists were also able to collect other important data, such as the frequency and the duration of the air blowing, the shape and position in which the elephant’s trunks were when trying to reach the food and their skills and success in moving the food, by tracking the food’s movement across the grid.
In the researcher’s opinion, the fact that elephants use their breath and trunks to form a “tool” to reach inaccessible food, in a similar manner to that in which chimps use sticks to catch ants, the definition of the word “tool” should be expanded to include the psychological process needed in problem-solving behavior, and not focus only on the use of a physical object.
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