An Elephant’s Trunk

Writer and conservationist Annette J Beveridge

by Annette J Beveridge

An elephant’s trunk is an incredible appendage growing 6-8 ft in length and weighing approximately 140 kg. It should be considered a combination of body parts set in one as it forms the upper lip and an extension of the nose. The nostrils run all the way through the length of the trunk. At the tip of an African elephant’s trunk, you can see the equivalent of two prehensile fingers. This is a proboscides which enables them to grasp and to pick up even the smallest of objects. Asian elephants are different in that they have just one prehensile ‘finger’ at the tip. This is known as a proboscis.

The elephants trunk....

Muscles and usage

There are no bones or joints in the trunk, but they have 40,000 muscles providing flexible movement. By contrast, humans have 600+ muscles within the whole of the body. Elephants use their trunks for multiple tasks, stretching high up into the trees to strip vegetation from branches, or gently rubbing at an itchy part of the body. They use it to satiate thirst too by drawing up to 4 litres of water into the trunk and then, releasing a little water at a time into the mouth.