How an Elephant’s Trunk Manipulates Air to Eat and Drink; Findings Could Have Applications to Robotics; Elephant Trunks Can Suck Up Water at 330 MPH

New research from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) finds that elephants dilate their two nostrils in order to create more space in their trunks, allowing them to store up to nine liters of water. They can also suck up water at three liters per second--a speed 30 times faster than a human sneeze (elephant’s sucking speed is estimated at 150 meters per second/330 mph). The Georgia Tech College of Engineering study sought to better understand the physics of how elephants use their trunks to move and manipulate air, water, food, and other objects. The scientists also sought to learn if the mechanics could inspire the creation of more efficient robots that use air motion to hold and move things. While octopus use jets of water to move and archer fish shoot water above the surface to catch insects, the Georgia Tech researchers found that elephants are the only animals able to use suction on land and underwater. The open-access paper, "Suction Feeding by Elephants," was published online on June 2, 2021 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

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