Sunday, May 15, 2022

How Big Is An Elephant Brain

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Important Body Parts: Elephant Lungs

Looking at an Elephant’s Big Brain | Mind of a Giant

The respiratory system of the elephant is quite exceptional. The elephant is the only mammal without a pleural cavity . Connective tissue attaches their lungs directly to the chest wall and the diaphragm. This means breathing depends solely on movement of the chest muscle rather than the ribcage expanding. As a result, if the lungs are constricted, or if there is too much pressure on the chest and diaphragm, they risk suffocating.

One possible reason for this unique physiology is that direct control of the muscles allows elephants to deal with pressure differences when their bodies are underwater, and their trunk breaks the surface for air. This ability also helps elephants suck water through their trunk. Elephants inhale mostly through their trunk, although some air goes through their mouth, allowing them to retain water or dust in their trunk without holding their breath. Elephants will breathe out an average of 310 liters of air every minute.

Behaviors That Prove Elephants Are Incredibly Smart

Elephants are exceptionally smart creatures. They have the largest brain of any land animal, and three times as many neurons as humans. While many of these neurons exist to control the elephants large and dexterous body, these creatures have demonstrated their impressive mental capabilities time and time again. Here, a few interesting findings about the intelligence of elephants.


Researchers at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK have discovered that African elephants can distinguish differences in human gender, age, and ethnicity purely by the sound of someones voice. If the voice belongs to a person who is more likely to pose a threat, the elephants switch into defensive mode.

Whats more, the same recordings made by women and children of either tribe left the elephants unfazed, suggesting they can not only distinguish between ethnic groups, but between age and gender as well, knowing that men are the most likely to pose a threat, especially Maasai men.


Similarly, elephants have been known to use sticks to scratch themselves in areas they couldnt otherwise reach, and fashion fly swatters out of branches or grass. Others have been observed digging a hole to reach drinking water, and then plugging the hole with a ball formed from chewed bark to prevent the water from evaporating, thus saving it for later use.




Behaviour And Life History

The African bush elephant can be found in habitats as diverse as dry savannahs, deserts, , and lake shores, and in elevations from sea level to mountains above the snow line. Forest elephants mainly live in equatorial forests but will enter gallery forests and ecotones between forests and savannahs. Asian elephants prefer areas with a mix of grasses, low woody plants, and trees, primarily inhabiting dry thorn-scrub forests in southern India and Sri Lanka and evergreen forests in Malaya. Elephants are herbivorous and will eat leaves, twigs, fruit, bark, grass and roots. They are born with sterile intestines and require bacteria obtained from their mother’s feces to digest vegetation. African elephants are mostly browsers while Asian elephants are mainly grazers. They can consume as much as 150 kg of food and 40 L of water in a day. Elephants tend to stay near water sources. Major feeding bouts take place in the morning, afternoon and night. At midday, elephants rest under trees and may doze off while standing. Sleeping occurs at night while the animal is lying down. Elephants average 34 hours of sleep per day. Both males and family groups typically move 1020 km a day, but distances as far as 90180 km have been recorded in the Etosha region of Namibia. Elephants go on seasonal migrations in search of food, water, minerals, and mates. At Chobe National Park, Botswana, herds travel 325 km to visit the river when the local waterholes dry up.

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The Amazing Abilities Of An Elephants Brain

Catie A.

My name is Catie, and I am the newest member of the Elephant Team here at Zoo Atlanta. One of the most common questions I am asked about the elephants at Zoo Atlanta is, How long does it take for them to trust you? One of my main focuses is building a positive relationship with the elephants. This can be accomplished in many different ways however, food is one definite way to these elephants hearts. Giving them foods they especially enjoy, such as watermelon, bananas or apples, creates a positive memory of me in their minds. Elephants are considered some of the most intelligent mammals in the animal kingdom because of their brains, which are highly similar to human brains. As you know, the old saying goes, an elephant never forgets. Both of these elephants know over 60 different behaviors, many of which they have known since they were very young elephants in the 1980s.

Elephants are highly intelligent animals. However, the human race is not currently treating these animals as such. Elephants are being killed in large numbers daily, especially for ivory, but many other factors as well. Because of this, it is projected that elephants could be extinct in the wild within the next 10 years. You can help us make sure this doesnt happen! Visit 96 Elephants , supporting Zoo Atlanta to help us continue to do the great work we do for elephants and many other species in the wild, and learning more about Kelly and Tara during your next visit! Catie Aubuchon

Elephant Senses And Communication

The Elephant Brain

An elephant is capable of hearing sound waves well below the human hearing limitation. They communicate using both high and low frequency sounds. Low frequency rumbles are made to warn other elephants at long distance of a current situation whereas high frequency sounds such as trumpeting, barking, snorting and other loud calls are used to communicate to those nearer.

Using their heads, bodies, trunks, ears and tail for communicating is the elephants natural language. Visual communication includes movements of the head, mouth, tusks and trunk. For example, when a female elephant feels threatened, she will make herself appear larger by holding her head as high as she can and spreading her ears wide. Chemical communication is the use of the trunk. The elephant will lift its trunk to smell the air or root around the floor usually searching for urine spots and urine trails.

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Does Brain Size Matter

When I talk about the brain in professional development trainings, I often ask participants to put their two fists together. That, I tell them, is about the size of their brain. Typically, everyone starts looking around because everyones hands are different sizes. We tend to equate size with strength or power . Then, I say, This is one time that size doesnt matter.

So, what does matter when it comes to our brains?

The Bigger the Animal, the Bigger the Brain

A fascinating article in Cerebrum from the Dana Foundation makes the case that brain size matters, but there are a lot of other differences as well. Bigger animals generally have bigger brains. Mammalian brains can range from the teeny-tiny brain of a shrew weighing in a less than a sesame seed, to the 10-pound brain of the massive African Elephant. The size of an animals brain generally remains proportionate to its body size.

In the animal kingdom, a bigger brain is usually correlated with greater cognitive functioning. So, for example, the cognitive abilities of an African Elephant are superior to those of a shrew. If the relationship were consistent between overall brain size and cognitive ability, the cognitive ability of a human would fall somewhere between the shrew and the elephant. But that isnt the case. Humans function at a higher cognitive level than species with much larger brains.

Neurons and Brain Regions

Neural Networks and Connectivity

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Mammals Evolved Big Brains After Big Disasters

Largest study of its kind reveals the way relative brain size of mammals changed over the last 150 million years

The idea that comparing brain size to body size for any species provides a measure of the species’ intelligence is one of the most deeply rooted paradigm in the life sciences. Although it’s been popular for more than a hundred years, the paradigm bears fundamental assumptions on how brain size and body size co-evolve that have never been tested. Now, researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior have compared brain mass and body size of more than 1000 extinct and modern-day speciesthe largest database ever assembled for mammals. The findings reveal that most variation in brain size across species that live today can be explained by changes they underwent following cataclysmic events. It further highlights that brain size and body size have not always evolved in parallel. Given the complexity of species evolutionary history, the study urges a re-evaluation of the long-standing dogma that relative brain size can be equivocated with intelligence.

Major extinction events have given rise to present-day differences in relative brain size.

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Other Areas Of The Brain

Elephants also have a very large and highly convoluted hippocampus, a brain structure in the limbic system that is much bigger than that of any human, primate or cetacean. The hippocampus of an elephant takes up about 0.7% of the central structures of the brain, comparable to 0.5% for humans and with 0.1% in Risso’s dolphins and 0.05% in bottlenose dolphins.

The hippocampus is linked to emotion through the processing of certain types of memory, especially spatial. This is thought to be possibly why elephants suffer from psychological flashbacks and the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder .

The encephalization quotient of elephants ranges from 1.13 to 2.36. The average EQ is 2.14 for Asian elephants, and 1.67 for African, with the overall average being 1.88.:151 In comparison to other animals, the La Plata dolphin has an EQ of 1.67 the Ganges river dolphin of 1.55 the orca of 2.57 the bottlenose dolphin of 4.14 and the tucuxi dolphin of 4.56 chimpanzees at 2.49 dogs at 1.17, cats at 1.00 and mice at 0.50. Humans have an EQ of 7.44.

Evolution And Extinct Relatives

Human brains compared to other animals

Over 180 extinct members and three major evolutionary radiations of the order Proboscidea have been recorded. The earliest proboscids, the African Eritherium and Phosphatherium of the late Paleocene, heralded the first radiation. The Eocene included Numidotherium, Moeritherium, and Barytherium from Africa. These animals were relatively small and aquatic. Later on, genera such as Phiomia and Palaeomastodon arose the latter likely inhabited forests and open woodlands. Proboscidean diversity declined during the Oligocene. One notable species of this epoch was Eritreum melakeghebrekristosi of the Horn of Africa, which may have been an ancestor to several later species. The beginning of the Miocene saw the second diversification, with the appearance of the deinotheres and the mammutids. The former were related to Barytherium and lived in Africa and Eurasia, while the latter may have descended from Eritreum and spread to North America.

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Brain Versus Body Mass

Because the size of the brain scales allometrically with that of the body, Jerison proposed the use of encephalization quotient , which is the observed brain size versus the expected brain size for a mammal of the same BM. The expected brain size is calculated by regressions of brM versus BM that characterize the general trend among mammals. Here I estimate the EQ using the regression of Manger , because this regression excludes cetaceans and primates.

Elephants Have The Most Neurons Why Aren’t They The Smartest Animals

    African Elephant feeding at Ol Pejeta, laikipia

    Why aren’t elephants the smartest animals since they have the most neurons?

    Because Minecraft

    We often hear ‘bigger is better’ which might be true for pay-checks but not for other things. Im of course talking about brains, what else? Nature has an astounding diversity of life, each with a unique brain. Some of those brains grow to be massive organs, like that of the African Elephant with a 5kg brain and 257 billion neurons. Some brains stay tiny, like that of roundworms which comes in at only a fraction of a gram with about 300 neurons in total. Humans rank in between, with a 1.4kg brain and give or take 86 billion neurons.

    That begs the question, if humans are outranked by animals such as elephants, why are we the self-proclaimed smartest creature on earth? How is it that an elephant with almost 3 times the number of neurons isnt laughing at our struggle with quantum mechanics?

    Humans dont stand out that much in general, except when it comes to intelligence. Absolute brain size isnt what makes us smart, neither is surface area, EQ, or neuron density. Then why is it that an elephant, with a huge brain and more neurons, isnt as smart or even smarter than a human? This is where neuroscience and biology get a bit tricky, an example might help.

    Its not the size of the brain that matters its how you use it.

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    Adaptive Behavior In Captivity

    In the 1970s, at , there lived an Asian elephant named Bandula.Bandula worked out how to break open or unlock several of the pieces of equipment used to keep the shackles on her feet secure. The most complex device was a Brummel hook, a device that closes when two opposite points are slid together. Bandula used to fiddle with the hook until it slid apart when it was aligned. Once she had freed herself, she would help the other elephants escape.In Bandula’s case and certainly with other captive elephants, there was an element of involved during the escapes, such as the animals looking around making sure no one was watching.

    In another case, a female elephant worked out how she could unscrew iron rods with an eye hole that was an inch thick. She used her trunk to create leverage and then untwisted the bolt.

    Ruby, an Asian elephant at Phoenix Zoo would often eavesdrop on conversations keepers would have talking about her. When she heard the word paint, she became very excitable. The colors she favored were green, yellow, blue and red. Once, a fire truck came and parked outside her enclosure where a man had just had a heart attack. The lights on the truck were flashing red, white and yellow. When Ruby painted later on in the day, she chose those colors. She also showed a preference for colors that the keepers wore.

    According to one source, elephants can figure out how to retrieve distant objects that they cannot otherwise reach by using a stick.

    A Few More Elephant Facts

    Anatomy of the elephants â
    • The Asian elephant is often commonly referred to as the Indian elephant
    • Wild African and Asian elephants reaching adulthood without ever growing tusks is becoming more common – an amazing evolutionary result of adults with large, well-formed tusks being killed off for their ivory before they can reproduce.- a very recent elephant fact and a fascinating example of micro-evolution!
    • The Asian elephant has much smaller ears than the African elephant and has two distinctive bumps on thetop of the head.
    • The largest bull African elephants can have 10 foot long tusks and must become accustomed to walking with their heads slightly raised lest they stop short jousting the ground – Elephant Facts

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    Relative Brain Size Is Not Always A Measure For Intelligence

    The authors say that these complex patterns urge a re-evaluation of the deeply rooted paradigm that comparing brain size to body size for any species provides a measure of the species’ intelligence. At first sight, the importance of taking the evolutionary trajectory of body size into account may seem unimportant, says Jeroen Smaers, an evolutionary biologist at Stony Brook University and first author on the study. After all, many of the big-brained mammals such as elephants, dolphins, and great apes also have a high brain-to-body size. But this is not always the case. The California sea lion, for example, has a low relative brain size, which lies in contrast to their remarkable intelligence.

    Weve overturned a long-standing dogma that relative brain size can be equivocated with intelligence, says Kamran Safi, a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and senior author on the study. Sometimes, relatively big brains can be the end result of a gradual decrease in body size to suit a new habitat or way of movingin other words, nothing to do with intelligence at all. Using relative brain size as a proxy for cognitive capacity must be set against an animals evolutionary history and the nuances in the way brain and body have changed over the tree of life.

    The Animal With The Biggest Brain

    The sperm whale has the largest brain in the world. Incredibly, the sperm whale has a brain that weighs around 18 pounds. This fact is not that hard to believe considering that the sperm whale is the most enormous toothed whale, not to mention the fact that its the biggest toothed predator. The males are usually bigger than the females with an average length of a whopping 52 feet and an average weight of about 45 short tons. Females are slightly smaller with an average length of about 36 feet and an average weight of 15 short tons. Newborns are the smallest with a meager average length of 13 feet with their weights averaging approximately 1.1 short tons.

    To put the size of the sperm whales brain into perspective, it is at least five times as large as humans brain. Their brains have a volume of approximately 8,000 cubic centimeters. Despite their large brain size, the sperm whales have a lower encephalization quotient compared to plenty of dolphin and whale species. This low quotient means that the sperm whale is not necessarily the smartest creature on the planet. In terms of relative and absolute size, the whales cerebrum is unmatched in terms of size by any other creature on earth. The reduced olfactory system also translates to a poor sense of smell and taste. However, the auditory system is inflated while the pyramidal tract is not that well developed.

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