Elephants can smell quantity, a study suggests. It's a new level of olfactory prowess.
- A small study of Asian elephants has found that the animals can pick out larger quantities of seeds using just their sense of smell.
- The elephants could smell the difference between piles of 150 versus 180 seeds.
- Fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild. A better understanding of how they smell quantity and how that influences their behavior could help conservation efforts.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories
View all Offers
OnePlus Nord 2 5G (Blue Haze, 8GB RAM, 128GB Storage) I Extra upto Rs.1000 off on Exchange₹ 29999Buy On
OnePlus Nord 2 5G (Gray Sierra, 8GB RAM, 128GB Storage) I Extra upto Rs.1000 off on Exchange₹ 29999Buy On
- 18% OFF
Redmi 9A (Nature Green, 2GB RAM, 32GB Storage) | 2GHz Octa-core Helio G25 Processor | 5000 mAh Battery₹ 6999₹ 8499Buy On
- 19% OFF
Redmi Note 10 (Aqua Green, 4GB RAM, 64GB Storage) -Amoled Dot Display | 48MP Sony Sensor IMX582 | Snapdragon 678 Processor₹ 12999₹ 15999Buy On
- 18% OFF
Redmi 9 (Carbon Black, 4GB RAM, 64GB Storage) | 2.3GHz Mediatek Helio G35 Octa core Processor₹ 8999₹ 10999Buy On
"If you want to really understand how smart an animal is, you have to put yourself in their shoes," Joshua Plotnik, the study's lead researcher, told NOVA. "What this study tells us is, if you want to do that with an elephant, you're going to need a trunk."The video below shows how the study worked. Researchers presented a bull elephant (who's been trained to pick the larger amount of food) with two buckets holding different quantities of sunflower seeds. The buckets are sealed so that the elephant can't see inside them, but they're perforated so that he can smell the contents. After he investigates each bucket with his trunk, the researchers unlock the buckets and let him make a choice.
The researchers repeated this process with 11 different ratios of sunflower seeds.Overall, elephants usually chose the buckets with more seeds, though they performed better when the difference between the two quantities was large. The results were similar to the performance of animals that can see quantity - to humans, for example, it's easier to tell the difference between 10 and 100 jelly beans than the difference between 15 and 20.
The nose knows
In the study, which was published in the journal PNAS last month, the researchers tweaked the experiment conditions in various ways to make sure the elephants were using their sense of smell alone. They swapped the plastic buckets for metal containers that don't retain odors. They also did trials in which the humans didn't know how many seeds were in each bucket either. And in one version of the test, the researchers made the different seed piles top out at the same height, ruling out the possibility that elephants were just picking the portion that's closer to their trunk. The results held steady, NOVA reported.
The elephants didn't choose as wisely when the researchers gave the buckets solid lids that blocked scents, though. Together, this evidence suggests the animals really were using smell alone to detect quantity.
Elephants' olfactory prowess
African elephants have about 2,000 genes for olfactory receptors - the most of any mammal tested thus far. That makes for a highly nuanced sense of smell. The olfactory genes of Asian elephants (the type involved in the new study) haven't been counted in the same way, but the animals have performed better than others in differentiating between molecularly similar odors."It's critical for elephants to understand their world through smell," Caitlin O'Connell, an elephant expert at Stanford University who was not involved in the study, told Nova. "For them to be able to distinguish quantity makes a whole lot of sense."
But the researchers think that learning more about this sniffing process could boost efforts to protect elephants as an endangered species. Fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild. A better understanding of how the animals understand their environment and find food could help mitigate conflict in the regions where elephants and humans come into contact."We're running out of time to save them," Plotnik said. "They're remarkably intelligent animals we still know very little about."
- Punjab to bring Bill to earmark welfare budget for SCs in proportionate to their population
- High Pressure car washer price in India
- Best boAt headphones to buy in India
- Nothing ear (1) review – clean sound, transparent design for the win
- Oppo Reno 6 Pro 5G to A74 5G: Oppo smartphones launched in India in 2021