Q:

How do elephants move?

A:

When elephants walk, each of their legs functions independently, according to John Hutchinson of London's Royal Veterinary College. Elephants position their legs directly under their bodies to support their extreme weight.

Both the elephant's front and back legs alone are capable of supporting its weight, which can be up to 6.6 tons. Elephants can move forward or backward, but they cannot gallop or jump. They either walk or use a slightly faster pace that is slower than running when moving on land. They can move at speeds up to 11 miles per hour and use both their front and back legs in propelling themselves and slowing or stopping.

Elephants are good swimmers and are able to support themselves in the water for up to six hours at speeds up to 1 mile per hour. They typically rest in the shade during the hottest hours of the day and may nap while standing. They sleep at night for an average of three to four hours while reclining on the ground. They travel around six to 12 miles a day and seasonally migrate for mating and to search for food and water. They are important to ecosystems because they carry and disperse plant seeds in their dung, which also serves as a source of food for some animals.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What eats elephants?

    A:

    Tigers and lions occasionally eat elephants, though attacks are rare. Since the repercussions of a failed attack are fierce, the big cats tend to only prey on very weak and young elephants. Scavengers, such as hyenas, often feed on dead or dying elephants.

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  • Q:

    How long do elephants live?

    A:

    The median lifespan of an elephant in the wild is 56 years for female African elephants and 42 years for female Asian elephants. Elephants can reach ages of over 70 years old. In captivity, elephants only live to be about 17 years old — one year short of adulthood.

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  • Q:

    Why do elephants have long trunks?

    A:

    Elephants have long trunks because they need them in order to survive on the savannah or in the rainforest. Elephants use their trunks for many different purposes such as digging for water and spraying dust over their bodies.

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  • Q:

    Where are elephants found?

    A:

    Depending on the species, elephants are found naturally in Africa and Asia. African elephants are found in most parts of Africa, while Asian elephants are mostly found in the tropical forests in Asia, such as in India, Thailand and Indonesia.

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