Sunday, 12 January 2014

#495 In the field: Africa . . . Elephant, con't . . .

Please start this series of posts with #477 

The most important data I took to Africa - along with my camera equipment - was a sketchbook full of skeleton drawings.   
I obtained a list the various species I could expect to see, and researched each ones' skeleton.  
The drawings proved invaluable while observing the animal's locomotion and structure. .

The elephant's skeleton must support enormous weight and mass.  The animal has an almost vertical pelvis . . . 
the short neck is almost horizontal and 21 pairs of ribs form a huge, barrel-shaped cage.  
The vertebrae are connected by tight joints which limit the backbone's flexibility.

Below, is a photo taken in Tarangire . . . note the almost vertical pelvic bone.

The elephant's limbs form a direct line and results in a pillar of support for the huge mass. . . the enormous shoulder blades provide support for muscles from the forelimbs.  As in all mammals, the elephant has 
7 neck vertebrae . . . they are, however, fused together to handle the weight of the head and tusks.

Below, is a photo taken in Tarangire . . . note the direct line from the scapula and the 
forelimb that results in a pillar of support for animal's enormous bulk.

The shape of the skull is different between the male and the female:  The female skull forms a ridge or bump over the forehead, resulting in a distinctive square-like appearance while the male has a rounded forehead.

Below, are photos taken in Tarangire.  Note the difference between the square-like ridge of the female's forehead in the first photo, and the rounded forehead of the male in the second photo.

Elephants cannot trot, gallop, or jump but they can move backwards and forwards.  They have two gaits:  
The walk and a faster walk which is similar to running. The fast-walk gait gives the appearance of a 'run'.  An elephant always has a leg on the ground and when it is moving fast, their front legs bounce in a running manner.  Their back legs, however, walk in a smooth manner when fast-walking.  It's hard to convince anyone who has been charged by a 5-ton elephant that the animal wasn't actually running!

Below, are three photos of a walking elephant.  I took hundreds of sequential photos similar to this of elephants in motion.  

Below, is a photo of a "fast walking" baby elephant . . . ears flying, the movement gives the appearance of 'running' but the gait is actually a fast walk.

For anatomy reference, go to posts #563, #616, and #655
Blog, text, photos, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish Smith

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