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?
- Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk By Sleeping With Lots Of Women - But Not Men
- Supersonic Laser-Propelled Aircraft Get A Step Closer
- Greenpeace Says Its GMOs Are Better Than Science's GMOs, Still Hates Golden Rice
- Homo Floresiensis: Hobbit Species Continues To Provoke Questions About Human Evolution
- Okay With Disgusting Images? You Vote This Way 95 Percent Of The Time
- This Mid-Term Election Can Have Evolutionary Consequences
- Everyone Hates Daylight Savings Time - But It Might Improve Public Health
- "Mars is basically a dead rock. Any life that can take hold there, good for it. Now the oceans of..."
- "Most people like average, because average is most predictable - just as frequent words and symmetrical..."
- "Save Lives With Golden Rice..."
- "From Der_Wanderer The common ground of theist and atheist is that both are believers . That is..."
- "The common ground of theist and atheist is that both are believers . That is both from a high level..."
- Science as profane: What superstition of 1752 and 2014 share in common
- What’s so “natural” about “natural crop breeding”?
- Worried you have cancer? Take a Google pill!
- Mars bars for brain health? Not so fast
- Scientists rebuff Center for Food Safety report alleging chemicals in infant soy milk
- When you take your drugs might matter as much as what you’re taking
- Air quality and unconventional oil and gas sites
- Frailty increases kidney transplant recipients' risk of dying prematurely
- Cochrane news: Expectant mothers with epilepsy face tough choices over their medication
- Report: 93 percent of mining, oil & gas, logging, agriculture developments involve inhabited land
- Breast and colorectal cancers remain more aggressive in children
Books By Writers Here