Elephants grew swimming trunks

Steve Connor@SteveAConnor
Tuesday 06 October 2015 09:27

SCIENTISTS HAVE worked out how the elephant really got its trunk, almost a century after Rudyard Kipling suggested the prehensile snout was the result of a tug-of-war with a crocodile.

The elephant's long nose evolved as a snorkel for underwater breathing rather than an extra limb for grabbing food, the researchers suggest.

A study of elephant embryos has found that the world's largest land-based mammal once may have lived an aquatic existence and is probably more closely related to sea cows than to other animals.

Kipling's version, outlined in one of his Just So Stories, suggested that the trunk resulted from an encounter on the banks of the Limpopo river between a curious young elephant and a crocodile who "pulled and pulled and pulled" until the elephant's nose "grew longer and longer".

Zoologists at the University of Melbourne in Australia, however, have found that elephant embryos transiently develop special kidney cells that are needed for aquatic life.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments