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What Good Are Long Trunks
and Necks?


An elephant’s trunk helps it drink, make noise (“trumpet”), and smell. By showering water and dust, it respectively keeps the animal cool and wards off insects. The female uses it to steer infants and chastise young. Most important, the trunk is used for picking up food. This unique structure can handle objects as big as a tree and as small as a seedpod — or a peanut.

By contrast, the tallest land animal, the giraffe, has a long neck, which allows it to browse on vegetation some 15 feet above the ground. The leaves of acacia trees are its main food. The animal’s massive 25-pound heart can pump blood against gravity up to the head. Conversely, when the giraffe browses on low foliage or drinks, special valves in the blood vessels close, preventing a dangerous rush of blood to the head.

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