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Why Are Elephant Ears So Big?

Why are Elephant Ears so Big? This is a question that many have had over the years. All you have to do is observe an elephant walking along, flapping its ears. Suddenly, you wonder if there’s a reason for this activity.

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Why are elephant ears so big? 

The elephant seems to be so adept at using these huge ears to swat at insects. But is there more? Actually, there are a few reasons why elephants have such big ears, read more to find out what these reasons are.

Why are Elephant Ears so Big? via GIPHY

Reason #1

Elephants don’t have many sweat glands. But their ears are made up of thousands of thin blood vessels. Because these blood vessels are close to the skin’s surface, they allow the heat to escape from the elephant’s body. This helps them stay cooler on the hot African plains.

Large African Elephant Ear - Vessels in African Elephant Ear
Large African Elephant Ear - Vessels in African Elephant Ear

Reason #2

Another great reason for the size of their ears is that they work as natural fans. If you’ll notice, the elephant seems to constantly be flapping their ears as they stroll along. Though sometimes they are swatting at insects, this constant motion works to cool the elephant down. They’re fanning themselves with their ears, how cool is that?

Baby Elephant Flapping its Ears - African Elephant
Teenage African Elephant Flapping Ears - Image by David Sluka

Reason #3

A third reason involves how elephants keep themselves safe in the wilderness. Though they’re a large animal, there are a few predators around that will, at times, threaten the animal. The elephant can spread its ears out wider when posturing so that it appears to be larger and more dangerous. This works to keep these gentle pachyderms safe.

Silver Baby Elephant Ring
Silver Baby Elephant Ring

Some researchers believe that when the elephants flaps its ears, it is funneling sound so that it can hear better. This idea is still being explored. Elephants do possess exceptional hearing.

Facts about the Elephant Ear

There are some distinctive facts about elephant ears that make this animal so unique. One of the most noticeable things about an elephant are its ears, but did you know that the Asian and African elephant ears are different from each other? Amazingly, the ears of an African elephant are shaped like the country of Africa and they’re larger at over 6 feet. The ears of an Asian elephant are shaped similar to Asia and only about 5 feet.

Asian Elephant Ears
Asian Elephant Ears - Image by pasja1000

This is not only rare but highly interesting as we study why and how certain species have evolved over the centuries. Imagine if humans evolved specific characteristics to deal with the climate in their region or to overcome certain hazards such as polluted air.

Other Interesting Facts about Elephants

The elephant is the largest land animal in the world. Elephants are most often gray or brown colored with a bit of coarse hair on their bodies. Elephants live in matriarchal societies. This means that the females lead the herd, usually the oldest female. Young male elephants often leave the family and wander off to become part of a separate bachelor herd.

The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) can weigh up to 9 tons and stand 12-13 feet tall. There are various species and sub-species and some live in African rainforests, while others live in African Savannas and other areas.

Three African Elephants -African Elephant Tuskers
African Elephant Tuskers - Image by kolibri5 

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is smaller at around 5-6 tons. There are three distinct sub-species. They can curl up the end of their trunk and grab or pinch small items. They use this movement often for all sorts of tasks such as picking up food and placing it in their mouth. The trunk is often used to strip bark off a tree for feeding.

Asian elephant coffee mug with love
Asian Elephant Love Coffee Mug

The elephant’s trunk has evolved over the centuries to appear the way it does today. It is made up of the nose and upper lip of the animal and it’s very powerful. An elephant’s trunk can weigh almost 300 pounds and lift 550 pounds. There are 16 muscles in an elephant’s trunk that make it able to lift, pull and throw things. A network of transverse muscle fascicles make it able to perform intricate movements. It is often seen in the wild throwing thousands of gallons of water on itself to cool down.

What Elephants do when they Meet

When an elephant meets another in the wild, they will often go over and touch their trunks together. This is a way of saying hello. It’s sort of like a “High Five.” Sometimes, they intertwine their trunks to show fondness. Elephants are gentle, friendly creatures.

Asian Elephants Saying Hello with their Trunks - Image by pen_ash
Asian Elephants Saying Hello with their Trunks - Image by pen_ash

How do Elephants Speak?

In most elephant species, there are five bones in the throat shaped like a box and connected with muscles, ligaments and tendons. They can make snorting or roaring sounds, as well as growling and barking sounds. In fact, elephants can perform quite a wide range of vocalizations including their most famous trumpeting sound. The trumpet sound has many variations such as pulsating, crying and barking.

Elephants have been known to live to about 80 years old in captivity but only about 60 years old in the wild. This difference is most likely due to food shortages and predators.

old Asian elephant
Aging Asian Elephant - Image by Mohamed Nuzrath 

Thank you for reading our post about elephant ears and other interesting elephant facts. We hope you will return to find out more about elephants and share your love of elephants with us.

Feel free to leave us a comment and let us know what you would like to learn about elephants.

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Walk Strong, Head High, Trunk Up, Always Inspired!
– The Ele Team
Image of a baby elephant as the Ele Footprints LLC Logo
Image of a baby elephant as the Ele Footprints LLC Logo
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