See How Cracked Skin Helps Elephants Stay Cool | Decoder
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See How Cracked Skin Helps Elephants Stay Cool | Decoder

Whether it’s swimming, splashing, or
rolling around in the mud, there’s nothing an elephant loves more than bath time. This elephant water park isn’t just for fun, though. Temperatures in the hot African savanna average around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. But staying cool is no problem for elephants, thanks to millions of microscopic cracks
in their skin. How do elephants get their cracks? And why does it help them beat the heat? The African elephant is the largest living
land animal in the world. It can grow up to 13 feet high and weigh up to 7 tons. Its outer skin layer is about 50 times
as thick as a human’s. But, unlike many mammals, elephants don’t sweat. They control much of their body temperature through evaporative cooling— which requires the wetting of the skin through regular bathing and spraying. Elephants can store up to two and a half gallons
of water in their trunk at a time. They use their amazing sense of smell to find water from miles away— even when it’s inside a tree or below ground. Unlike humans, elephants don’t shed their dead skin. When baby elephants are born, their skin is covered in tiny protrusions called papillae. These are similar to the small kinds of bumps
that are found on the human tongue. As they get older, their skin cells build up thicker and thicker over the dermis. Eventually, these accumulated layers start to bend under
pressure, causing deep cracks to form in between the papillae. Water then flows
through the crevices using capillary action, which is the same force that allows
plant roots to soak up water from the soil. This process transforms the skin surface
into an intricate network of channels. As a result, elephant skin can hold up to ten times
more water than a smooth surface. Their fractured skin also helps to keep mud and dust from sliding off. Like an all-natural sunblock, helping to protect elephants from sunburn and parasites. There is still more to learn about the unique ways that elephants have adapted to beat the heat. And scientists hope that understanding elephant skin could even help to improve treatments for human skin conditions. Who knew elephant skin could be so cool?


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