Main content

Wonder facts: Elephants

Elephants are experts at finding water.

Elephants can locate rain by using their feet
The Wonder of Animals

The elephant is covered in long, wiry hairs that actually help cool the elephant down. They act as heat conductors drawing heat away from the body. This is the first time any mammal’s hairs have been found to help lose, rather than retain, body heat.

An elephant can locate rain even when it’s hundreds of miles away by using their feet. They are able to pick up a storm’s infrasound, the low frequencies, which are undetectable to the human ear.

Unlike most mammals, elephants don’t sweat. They can’t afford the water loss.

Key adaptation - cooling ears

The African elephant has the largest ears of any animal, accounting for 20% of their overall surface area. They make useful fans, but also have other mechanisms that cool the elephant down in more subtle ways. Thin flaps dissipate heat fast and therefore the ears are immediately cooler than other parts of the body, but to accentuate this elephants control the volume of blood that flows through their ears via a network of blood vessels. The vessels can be dilated to increase the flow of blood to the ears and increase heat loss. It works in a similar way to a car radiator and when needed, they can pump up to 12 litres of blood through each ear every minute.

How to keep an elephant cool

Elephants have a unique, and surprising, method of keeping themselves cool.