Did you know that elephants have a built-in air conditioning system in their body! I was surprised to learn about this unique ability of elephants from a friend.
She works in the local zoo and takes care of the elephants there.
According to her, the hairs on the bodies of the elephants can draw the heat away. This helps keep the elephants cool even during the hottest of summers.
Elephants have thin, soft hairs which not only act as a cooling mechanism but also protect them from insects and parasites.
On learning of this unique ability of the hair of elephants, I asked my friend several questions, and some of these are as follows:
Do all elephants have hair?
Elephants are mostly found in Africa and Asia, and both species of elephants have hair. However, an African elephant’s hair density is less than its Asian cousin.
Why do elephants have hair?
In most cases, the hair on the mammals is there to conserve heat. But in the case of elephants, the hair helps keep them cool.
The hair on an elephant’s body behaves like that of spikes on a cactus. The hairs on elephants help dissipate heat.
Is there any particular reason why elephants need to have hair?
Elephants live in regions where temperatures can reach up to fifty degrees Celsius. Hence, the animal needs to have hair on its body to keep it cool even at such high temperatures.
Is there any particular density of hair on the body of an elephant?
If you look at an elephant closely, you will find that the hair on its body is not like the thick fur that you usually associate with other animals.
Instead, you will find that the mammal has tufts of hair on its head and some sparse amount of hair on the rest of its body.
If you look at an elephant from a distance, it will be difficult to distinguish that the creature even has hair on its body.
Research shows that the hair density of an elephant is one thousand five hundred per square meter, which is relatively sparse given the massive size of the creature.
Compared to the size of the elephant, you will mostly find hair on the head of the elephant and the end of its tail.
Do the hairs at the end of the tail of an elephant have a function?
Just as the hair on the head or the rest of the body of the elephant help to keep the animal cool, even at extremely high temperatures, the hair at the end of the tail of an elephant has a unique role to play.
The hair at the end of the tail is coarser than that of the rest of the hairs on the elephant’s body.
Therefore, it acts as a natural fly swatter and helps keep the irritating flies off the back of the elephant.
You will often see an elephant swinging its tail like a cow to keep flies from landing on its back.
When do elephants have the maximum amount of hair?
Elephants have the maximum amount of hair on their bodies when they are young.
If you have ever seen a baby elephant, you will find that little thing covered in reddish-brown hair.
The hirsute of young elephants helps them to keep cool, much like adults.
However, when it comes to ensuring that the young elephant can survive even in scorching temperatures, the hair on its body is the only thing that can ensure it.
This is because the hair on a young elephant’s body is quite spiky, making it efficient in dissipating heat and easier to survive.
Has the need for hair increased in elephants?
The present-day elephant must survive in regions where temperatures can cross fifty degrees Celsius.
With climate change and rising temperatures becoming an issue, the elephant does need to evolve.
For example, the modern elephant and Wooly Mammoth share common ancestors, but the creature would not have survived the hot temperatures with its thick coat.
But the modern-day elephant has evolved and has become capable of surviving extreme heat with the help of its sparse hair and heat dissipation capability.
However, as temperatures continue to rise in Asia and Africa, animals need to keep evolving to survive climate change.