Infographic: Why African Elephants Appear Wrinkled

This article was originally published in the March 2019 of National Geographic Magazine. Here is also a link to the article on their web site.

Ever since I was a young boy, I have had a fascination with elephants. Also, as a young boy, I would flip through the pages of our monthly National Geographic magazine, studying all of the photos and drawings in the magazine. National Geographic has created, over the years, some of the most informative and beautiful infographics in the world. In this infographic I am showcasing today, National Geographic explains why elephants develop the cracks and crevices in their skin that gives them their unique look.

Per the article, the intricate web of cracks and crevices that gives African elephants their distinctive look is, in fact, an essential adaptation. The millions of micrometer-wide fractures in elephants’ skin retain mud and water after mud baths, helping the animals stay hydrated between trips to the water hole. Evaporation from the mud and water also aids temperature regulation—vital because elephants, unlike many mammals, don’t sweat. How the crevices develop has long been a mystery, but Michel Milinkovitch and his colleagues may have solved it. Their research suggests that fractures form when the growth of new skin puts stress on the brittle, outermost skin layer. The findings offer fresh insights into how elephants beat the heat.

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