How do elephants find their water sources?

An elephant’s trunk is designed to work as a nose, with keen smelling abilities, they can smell water from up to 12 miles away


They wave their trunks in the air, gathering scent particles that tells them which direction and just how far away the water is. The trunks also works as a danger spotter, if they can smell more than one water source, they can decide which one is safer to travel too.

So how does their trunk actually pick up these senses?

It’s actually very complicated. It stands almost like a finger, helping the elephant feed and pick certain things up. The tip of the trunk is sensitive, the shaft is very flexible, letting the elephant shorten or lengthen and move them in all different directions. To be able to smell water sources from 12 miles away, the elephants three nostrils breathe in the scent particles, which then passes through seven olfactory turbinals fillied with millions of receptor cells. This is where the knowledge of water or danger comes from, these sensitive cells will differentiate between the different scents they pick up. As well as a nose, his trunk also brings food to the mouth and squirts water over their backs when they become too dry, talk about multi-tasking!


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Photograph: Stuart Orford