African elephants are known for their expressive facial features and agile trunks that can grasp even small objects with their pincer-like grip.
Now scientists have discovered the secret of their agility.
The species has the highest number of facial neurons of all terrestrial mammals, allowing them to skillfully move their ears and perform complex maneuvers with their trunks.
Facial neurons create a pathway from the brain to the muscles and enable expressions such as smiling, frowning or raising the eyebrows in humans. The more there are, the more control an animal has over its facial muscles.
Yet humans only have about 9,000 facial neurons compared to African elephants, which have about 63,000.
Experts believe that these tens of thousands of extra brain cells in the face are responsible for the extreme performance of the trunk, ears and lips that African elephants exhibit. The animals are able to pluck one blade of grass.
In fact, researchers think they’ve found the part of the brain responsible for their skillful pinching motion that allows the elephants to pick up objects, a cluster of very large brain cells that lie at one end of a group of neurons that control the trunk muscles.
Professor Michael Brecht, of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, at Humboldt University and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, said: “We see high-density cell areas in the brains of African elephants, which resemble their ‘trunk fingers’. to represent.”.