Top Ten Elephant facts

Having done giraffes and having learned there that some giraffes apparently have trunks, too, elephants are the next logical target of our inquiries.

Now we finally know – Dumbo is real: ‘Elephants simply float on their backs as they enjoy the sun.’

The Top Ten facts about elephants you'd never have guessed: 10. Mothers belch to regulate their own body temperature. Mother elephants are warm-blooded, and their bladders are bigger than they would be if they were cold-blooded. The bladders and stomachs expand as they heat up, so it's an automatic reaction to the changed appetite for food. As part of a complex and everlasting cuddle, the mother elephant uses her voice to help regulate their son's temperature while they're resting. The mother uses her lower jaw to push on the back of the ear that is closest to her body. This pushes air in through a tube in the upper jaw, and out through the lower jaw to keep the elephant comfortable. But the elephant can also jerk his head around to keep out the cold. 9. Elephants enjoy reading and enjoy using their noses as a book. The trunk is finely sensitive and makes the elephant's hands useless - so he uses his nose instead. He sniffs and sucks on leaves and sticks and cups his trunk up and down the gaps between trunks of one another. And the trunk is sensitive enough that he can use it as a book. It is about seven times the distance from the tip of the trunk to the space between the ears as compared to that of a human's hand, so the elephant can smell a great distance and is able to touch his nose to the trunk of the next pachyderm, and it acts as though he's reading the page. 8. Elephants are excellent sniffers. When you listen to elephants in a zoo, the results may seem unpredictable, but in the wild they are very organized and focused. They spend some time sniffing the wind and then they start bobbing their trunks around, and you can't tell what they are trying to figure out. They sniff the air over a village or herd. They probably started sniffing to find out whether there was a predator lying in wait. They are more frightened by a large predator than they are by a small one. They can tell how many elephants are behind them and to the sides and if any of them roar. Elephants are very good at seeking out food, but when they smell it, they have to know where it is in relation to them. And they can recall smells for up to at least five hours after smelling. 7. Elephants have their own culture. They can draw their own conclusions about what has happened and why, and what the future will be. And with a herd that can be 50 strong, with each individual responsible for determining the best route and protecting their young, there is a lot going on. They will call out to each other to indicate happiness or unease, or to warn of dangers and of a change in the weather. Elephants form a herd of around 70 to 80 individuals, and the largest herd is around 500. 6. Elephant meat is extremely nutritious. The meat of the African elephant is part of a big picture of nutrition. Elephants in general are really well-developed and efficient at using the food they eat, and their caloric intake and weight gain is more similar to ours than that of other brutes - even the other large mammals. Their daily diet of grass and dung and leaves is very high in protein (males average 16%), and the protein and fat content of meat is approximately 40%, compared to 21% for cow and an average of 30% for human meat. 5. Elephants have the most complex brains of all land mammals. We call our mammalian brain 'the brain' and we reduce it to just that, and we don't much care about the complexity because that isn't where the biology gets us. But when we see the elephant brain, we don't see a brain in the same way. We see a brain with a complex number of nerve cells, with much developing of cerebral cortex and other developed areas, and with a number of areas from stem cells and protective structures to areas for sensory and memory storage. The elephant is the oldest extant land mammal and one of the oldest mammals at all. It lives for 30 years after birth, and has a brain that continues to develop for 30 years. 4. Elephants are one of the most faithful creatures on Earth. After humans, they are the second most faithful animal, with dogs the first. Elephants have the same numbers of males and females in their families, have the same numbers of brothers, sisters and cousins, and this is true from the beginning of the nuclear family. The extended family is also equally balanced with the mother and father as the eldest sovereign authority. The mother is the leader of the family and will stand up to her son, but she will back off with her daughters. The family doesn't ever separate, and the family is relatively permanent. 3. Elephants have a social system. The most intriguing is the matriarch. The matriarch is the leader of the elephant herd, and the matriarch is always female. It's amazing that she manages the herd, because she is always the oldest elephant of the herd. She's the oldest in her family, and the oldest in the family unit. She has ownership of the family and any particular elephant will be at one with her. It isn't like having a dominant male in a family - they are at one. 2. Elephants can't mate in captivity. It is a well-documented fact that male elephants are able to mate with other elephant females in the wild. But in captivity, their male counterparts will preferentially seek out females in the neighboring herd, instead of the females in their own group. Collections of visitors have been recorded to be quite violent when elephants from one zoo would attempt to mate with elephants in another zoo. This is a result of the fact that male elephants are very aggressive when they are not paired. 1. They fly. Elephants simply float on their backs as they enjoy the sun. Or if they need to get somewhere fast, they can simply jump out of the water and swim to the other side. The speed at which they are able to do this is extraordinary. A male elephant can reach speeds of about 24mph, and he can travel at speeds of up to 54mph in his search for food, but he can only travel at about two to four times faster than a zebra can race across the plain. Elephants have been seen to run at 62mph, and their speed in the water is beyond what we could ever calculate.

Having done the above list, GPT-J decided on its own that ten facts apparently wasn’t enough and generated an additional set of fifteen more elephant facts.

15 most unusual facts about elephants you'd never ever have guessed: 15. Elephants forget less than we do. Elephants remember things for up to a week, but if they need to remember something for weeks or months, they have good memories. As the time gets longer, elephants are better able to remember things, and when we measure in number of cues, they remember much more than we do for a similar time period. 14. Elephants can sleep standing up. Elephants are herbivores, so they don't need to sleep, but they like a comfortable lying posture. In the wild, they find a comfortable post in the tree canopy that allows them to face the day. But if they find the comforts of lying down in an uncomfortable position, they can sleep standing up. They use their trunks as pillows, and the trunk is like a mini-armrest, because even if they are standing, they will put their left side on it to keep their head at a certain height for a comfort. The mother will take her infant and place it on her back. 13. Elephants know when to celebrate and cry. Elephants, elephants and more elephants have been known to cry. The most famous elephant mourner is King Shere Khan, pronounced khuh-RAY, a man-eating tiger in the English language version of the Rudyard Kipling's novel Mowgli's Brothers. King Shere Khan mourned his brother Kaa, who was killed by Akela, the youngest among the wolves, in the Indian classic. 12. Tracking with their trunk is easier and more accurate than with their eyes. Elephants have a trunk that has three fingers, so the trunk can use three different sensors to perceive orientation in space. Elephants use their trunks to track people, to feel for food, to sniff and to prove dominance. Unlike us, elephants' trunks have a cooler surface, so it registers lower temperatures than other parts of their body. Elephants have the ability to use their trunks and identify different types of leopard calls in their jungle habitat. Compared to humans, elephants are best at tracking with their trunks, but they are better than cats and dogs, which have two and four fingers on their trunk, respectively. 11. Elephants are social animals. There are three basic ways for elephants to communicate with each other: gestures, visible expressions and vocalizations. Elephants communicate using a combination of these, like a symphony of sounds. Elephants form 'bouts', which are a bellow like a roar or a long cry, made by bringing the trunk up to one's face and then the trunk down, then bringing it back and up. Elephants might have one or two bouts during a session in the wild. 10. Elephants are social animals. Sometimes, elephants even take turns going through childbirth. Elephants will circle one another, and at times, one elephant will climb up on the other's back, parking her huge rump on its back. This can go on for hours; it's called giving birth. As the calf emerges, the mother can push with her trunk. One calf will become the dominant calf, and others will follow her. Her dominant calf will give birth, and then the others will follow. 9. Elephants are loud vocal animals. The most vocal animal, the elephant has the loudest call of any animal on Earth. These sounds can go from 20 hertz (cycles per second) to 150 hertz. Their long trunks can hold 300 hertz of frequencies. Elephants can also produce a very deep roar that has been recorded at 331 hertz. 8. Social life of elephants is more harmonious, because they don't fight as much as we do. Elephants are sociable animals, so there is a higher level of cooperation and a higher level of approval when they are with other elephants. Elephants are known to be very affectionate animals. In fact, researchers have observed pregnant elephants clinging to other elephants, even if it is a friend or a family member. Elephants have memory for up to a week. They don't forget about people or places that they have already come in contact with, so if there is a known elephant in the area, they will not discriminate against that elephant or any member of that elephant's family or clan. 7. Elephants cannot decide if they are elephants or non-elephants. In an experiment, elephants were shown photographs of both elephants and non-elephants and asked if they were an elephant. Most of the elephants said that they were an elephant, and they were generally more confident in their choice than the non-elephants. Elephants seem to have a hard time distinguishing between various kinds of animals, including humans, between humans and other animals. 6. Elephants rest more than we do. If you have seen the Wild Kingdom movie, you may have seen a herd of elephants walking and grazing in the forest. They find deep grasses or beds of grasses, they walk back and forth, and graze for a few hours. Elephants live about 80 years in the wild, so one can assume that a large group of elephants is eating for about 10 years in the wild. 5. Elephants are the herbivores. It was observed that when elephants eat a certain plant species, their stomachs are marked, and when they move off with a plant or a whole bunch of plants, other elephants can tell if the elephants are bringing a plant to eat or if they are moving off with a plant for storage for the future. In both cases, elephants will trumpeter. Elephants will trumpet when a large male elephant is moving off from a herd with a plant for storage. The good news for humans is that elephants are herbivores, and they are not aggressive when they eat or graze. 4. Elephants can charge you. Elephants are loud and sometimes rude; their warning bark is meant to let you know that they might charge you. There are several warning signals to let others know that elephants are charging, and the first medium-sized elephant charge is the'soft elephant'. The elephant makes a low, bellowing noise. The animal at the rear of the herd will turn around to face the noise, which tells everyone else in the herd that the elephant is going to charge and to move out of the way. The elephant will follow this with a spring, which is like a large jump and is used for patrolling. The elephant will drop to the ground, lower than both its legs, and then come up charging with its legs crossed. This sound is like a small bullet, only the speed is three times faster. The elephant then delivers a charge to an enemy of a size that it perceives as unjust. 3. There is one river of white elephants. Elephants can be very helpful sometimes. They are very intelligent animals, and they use their intelligence to help them be successful. When a village moves to a new area, the elephants move to their new homes to help the villagers. Elephants are one of the best species to clear the vegetation. Large tusks are not just for show, and elephants have them because they are used for probing and manipulating their environment, like a tool. Elephants always use their tusks to explore and to manipulate the vegetation around their roosts. Elephants also have two long crests, which are shared with rhinos and tigers. The hierarchy is based on these two crests; whoever is at the top of the hirarchy has a larger crest than the lower-ranking elephants. 2. Elephants are known to be intelligent animals. Elephants have been known to use their intelligence to help them survive. Elephants are known to use tools, especially to escape from their predators. A tiger will enter a den, but it will run out because of a wall of teeth. Elephants will construct a wall of trunks for the tiger, and they will charge, running to get the tiger, which will run out. Elephants have been known to use their trunks to help them find food or help them find a place to rest. Elephants will sometimes hide in the bushes to avoid the rain. Elephants will use their trunks to properly locate themselves in their habitat, so as to learn about the environment around them, and they also use their trunks to make their environment of comfort. Elephants can also use their trunks to help them read complex combinations like hieroglyphics. 1. Elephants were domesticated in India. Elephants are known to have been domesticated in India. In the 8th century, Hindu scriptures were referring to elephants as 'watercrafts', meaning this creature is used by elephants, given the name elephant. Elephants were actually domesticated to do the work that they do today, which is farm cultivation. The people of India did not initially want elephants because of their size. In the history of India, there was a society called the Harappan civilization that thrived between 3000 and 2000 BCE. Harappa was a sprawling city with palaces made out of bricks. Among these buildings were hundreds of elephants that were domesticated and would be used for transport, especially in rural transportation. The people who knew about the elephant found that it was particularly suitable as a domestic animal with its big size and knowledge of the nature. Because of their size and strength, elephants were used for transportation. The size of the elephant can transport 30 tons, which is 12 times of the amount a person can carry. Elephants are used for transportation in India to this day.

Inspired by an accidental editing error during the creation of this page, I tried to learn more about elephant gnomes. Most of the time, GPT-J just ignored the added ‘gnome’-bit, but one of the resulting texts was still quite interesting with regards to regular elephants.

The Top Ten facts about elephant gnomes you'd never have guessed: 10. Elephants like to play for five hours a day. They play the same game for five hours a day for years and years, sometimes for decades. The biggest elephant in the game is what they call an “intimate” game. It’s a game where they chase one another with their trunks, which they use like lances. 9. Elephants are not particularly good at physics. For instance, they can’t climb a tree, they refuse to learn how to jump, and they are easily thrown by a little wind. 8. Elephants use toothpaste. They use it to brush their teeth and to clean themselves. 7. Elephants think rain makes them better. They have to be constantly watched to make sure they don’t try to trample one another in a rain. 6. An elephant can outrun a cheetah as long as it keeps its mind on the chase. 5. Elephants have the biggest brains of any animal on the planet. The size of an elephant’s brain is about the size of a walnut. 4. Elephants are famous for being incredibly patient. By one reckoning, elephants take care of about 100,000 individual relationships. 3. Elephants have remarkable memories. Elephants can remember who helped them bottle-feed their babies, who they slept with. An elephant called Bamboo is able to remember how to build a bridge to a bunch of straws. 2. An elephant’s front left foot is very well developed. Elephants can use it to brush lower branches and it also has a protective role. Elephants also have a physical problem. They have a facial ridge that runs from the top of their head to their tail. The ridge protects their skin from mosquitoes and other insects. 1. Elephants and humans share one thing. They both use their memory to make decisions. [Thanks to Polly-Rose Bullivant for suggesting this one] [This post was edited for clarity and shrunk by HBR]

If you want to know more about elephant gnomes, I eventually managed to create some content about them here.