How elephants use their trunk

August 23rd, 2021

The elephant proboscis (trunk) exhibits an extraordinary kinematic versatility as it can manipulate a single blade of grass but also carry loads up to 270 kilograms. Using motion-capture technologies developed for the movie industry, we demonstrate that the complex behaviours of the elephant trunk emerge from the combination of a finite set of basic movements such as the propagation of an inward curvature and the formation of pseudo-joints. In addition, we show that the elephant trunk velocity obeys a mathematical law observed in human hand drawing movements. These results are published today in the journal Current Biology.

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Original article

Elephants evolved strategies reducing the biomechanical complexity of their trunk
Dagenais, Hensman, Haechler & Milinkovitch*
Current Biology, Vol. 31 (August 2021)


Press release

Download the press release here (in Englishin French).

Paule Dagenais, Michel Milinkovitch and one of the elephants used in this study, Bela Bela, South Africa.

Joseph Kamupambe and one of the elephants used in this study.When reaching for a target to the side, the trunk can form rigid segments connected by pseudo-joints, analogous to an elbow and wrist in an articulated skeleton. Bela Bela, South Africa.