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6 Facts About Elephants That Will Amaze You

It’s no secret that elephants are extraordinary animals. These magnificent beasts have an impressive size, are some of the smartest creatures on the planet, and, of course, they have huge floppy ears that make them insanely adorable. But it turns out, there’s way more to learn about elephants than what you already know.

For example, were you aware that about 2,000 pounds of an elephant’s hefty weight are comprised of its skin alone? Or that they’re one of the only animals that can identify themselves in a mirror? Read on, because the more you learn about these gentle giants, the more smitten you’ll be with them.

Elephants can tell your gender, age, and ethnicity from your voice.

In the case of elephants, big brains really do mean greater intelligence. According to findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, these creatures are so clever that they can determine ethnicity, gender, and even the age of a human from acoustic cues that they can pick up in their voices.

The researchers believe that elephants use this incredible skill to identify possible human threats and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Some elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror.

Elephants aren’t only good at recognizing human voices, they can also recognize their own reflection. In another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006, scientists found that Asian elephants know that they’re looking at themselves while gazing into a mirror, a level of self-awareness that only highly intelligent animals—like dolphins, apes, and humans—are known to display. Lookin’ good, guys!

Elephants can “hear” with their feet.

Elephants may have massive ears, but they can also pick up on noises via their feet, which register low-frequency rumbles caused by other animals up to 20 miles away, according to researchers at Stanford University.

“We think they’re sensing these underground vibrations through their feet,” explained study author Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, an affiliate of the Stanford Center for Conservation Biology. “Seismic waves could travel from their toenails to the ear via bone conduction, or through somatosensory receptors in the foot similar to ones found in the trunk.”

They make their own sunscreen

If you spend any amount of time outside under the scorching sun, you know how important it is to protect yourself from harmful UV rays with sunscreen. And elephants, who live in some of the sunniest places on the planet, know it too.

They save themselves from painful burns by using sand as a natural sunscreen to cover up their skin, according to Smithsonian. They’ll even cover their young in sand while they’re sleeping in order to keep them safe.

Elephants can turn pink.

Most elephants have grey skin, even though it sometimes appears brown thanks to the reddish sand they cover themselves with for protection. However, when Asian elephants get older, they can start to lose pigment in their skin; as a result, parts of their bodies, such as their trunks, begin to turn pink.

It turns out though, that rosy color isn’t exclusively for the elders: In 2009, a pink baby elephant was spotted in Botswana and was believed to be an extremely rare albino African elephant.

Just like humans are right- or left-handed, elephants are right- or left-tusked

Elephants use their tusks—which are actually a pair of the animal’s upper incisors—in all kinds of handy ways, from digging to fighting. But they use one more than the other. Yes, just like humans, elephants have one tusk that’s more dominant.

You can generally tell which is the animal’s “master tusk” because it’s often the shorter of the two, with a tip that’s been rounded down by use, according to the McGill School of Computer Science.

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