Monday, July 22, 2013

Why do elephants have trunks?

A: Because they would look silly with glove compartments.

Used to love elephant jokes as a kid.

If we specialize with our hands do we with our tongues?  The intricacies of communication probably match anything out there in terms of specialization. Cut to video of cute baby elephant.

How do I drink with this thing

Trunk to mouth

"There should be no advantage at all for preferring one hand or one foot because our world demands from us that both sides should be able to perform manipulations equally well," says Matthias Konstantin Laska, PhD, a biologist at the University of Munich who studies side preferences in new world monkeys. For example, a monkey grabbing for a banana would benefit from being able to choose the hand closest to the food, he notes. Additionally, localization of an ability to a particular area of the brain means an animal is more vulnerable to having that skill knocked out by a stroke or brain damage, notes Franziska Martin, PhD, a biologist at the Free University in Berlin.
Such apparent disadvantages to side preferences, notwithstanding, new research on elephants by Martin suggests there are also some benefits. She finds that limiting precise movements to one side of the body--and subsequently one-half of the brain--may lead to better muscular control, leaving the ambidextrous with less dexterity than animals who specialize.

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