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Elephants Reach Food By Blowing Through Their Trunks Rather Like A 'Tool'

Update Date: Nov 09, 2015 10:23 AM EST

It was Charles Darwin who once said that elephants can control their breath to get food that is out of reach. New research has now given an aye to his suggestion, according to HNGN.

Hence, the elephants are being credited not only with good "mental ability" but also an awareness of their environments, BioMed Central reported.

A team of researchers from the SOKENDAI  (The Graduate University for advanced studies) and Kyoto University probed the behaviour of a couple of female captive elephants, Mineko and Suzuko, at Kamine Zoo in Japan. They felt that when a piece of food was placed far from the elephants, they blew very hard to bring the food nearer to them.

With a digital map they placed a grid of a ditch in the animal enclosure, keeping food at different spots. Over 32 days they filmed their behaviour that was split into 128 trials, which started with the elephants beginning to blast air at a food item, and ending with the elephants grasping or giving it up.

Hence, the researchers analyzed the "blowing, position of the elephants' trunks, and movement of food" throughout the grid.

The findings revealed that it generally took about three blasts of air for the elephants to reach an inaccessible food item, and they were less likely to exhibit this behavior if the food was within reach. The dominant female appeared to be more successful at getting hard-to-reach food.

"By blowing air through their trunks to obtain inaccessible food, the elephants appear to exhibit an advanced understanding of their physical environment. Their skills to manipulate air might be related to those elephants commonly use, such as blowing for self-comfort and acoustic communication," said lead author Kaori Mizuno.

Would you call this kind of elephant's behaviour a "tool", just like the way in which chimpanzees use sticks to catch ants?Researchers say that the psychological process behind "problem-solving behaviour", especially the one that is linked with "tools" needs to be scientifically examined.

The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal, Animal Cognition.

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