Body hair in mammals is typically thought to have evolved to keep us warm in colder prehistoric periods but in elephants it may do the opposite. A new study contends epidermal hair may have evolved to help the animals keep cool in the hot regions they live in.
Low surface densities of hair can help dissipate heat but the biological and evolutionary significance of sparse skin hair is not well known. The authors of the new paper studied the effects of skin hair densities in Asian and African elephants on thermoregulation in these animals, and concluded that elephant skin hair significantly enhances their capacity to keep cool under different scenarios like higher daytime temperatures or less windy days.
Their research suggests that the dense body hair of furry animals helps with insulation, but as skin hair grows sparser, a tipping point is reached where, for animals such as elephants, skin hair begins to help release heat from the body rather than retain it.
Skin hair on African and Asian elephants. Credit: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047018
According to the authors, elephants have the greatest need for such heat loss to maintain a constant body temperature, since they are large terrestrial mammals that live in hot climates. Their results are the first to suggest that animal hairs could play a role in heat dissipation that could be beneficial to certain animals, like elephants.
Elie Bou-Zeid, corresponding author on the study, says "Sparse hair increases heat dissipation from the skin of elephants and help the largest terrestrial mammal meet its thermoregulation needs."
Citation: Myhrvold CL, Stone HA, Bou-Zeid E (2012) What Is the Use of Elephant Hair? PLoS ONE 7(10): e47018. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047018
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health
- Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD - Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees
- Violence, Sex And Taboo: The Original Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales Back In Print
- Which Government Created Regin, One Of The Most Sophisticated Espionage Bugs Ever Discovered?
- Strain 115 : The Killer Bacteria Inside Your Thanksgiving Turkey
- You Are Not Alone, Shows Hacked Webcam Site
- Big Data Could Be A Big Problem For Workplace Discrimination Law
- "As someone who has received NIH funding, I can tell you the answer is magic and pure coincidence..."
- "I never thought of diminutive as having a positive or negative association. I often describe people's..."
- "For the most part, I found your article compelling. It reminded me of the time in graduate school..."
- "Indeed, my little experiment does not prove anything; it is not scalable. Not the $10, not the..."
- "Most students take it to battle tiredness and lack of focus, so they study a lot more on the drug..."
- Why do people with autism see faces differently?
- Endangered hammerhead shark found migrating into unprotected waters
- Female color perception affects evolution of male plumage in birds
- Diagnosing deafness early will help teenagers' reading development
- 'Utter neglect' of rheumatic heart disease revealed by results from global study