Climate Ecosystem Dynamics Blog

Jun 27, 2014

Yet a Glamor-puss Still

Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the coolest of them all?’’ As it turns out, the elephant wins! Rectally speaking, the elephant is the coolest with 36.5 C (97.7 F). We are a close second with 37 C (98.6 F) Also-ran candidates are summarized in the table that follows.

Engineers stepped up to the plate to reject the hypothesis that sparse pelage might serve as insulation. In fact, in still air, the hair accounts for about a 5% of the flux of heat to the air. With forced convection (add wind), cooling gives rise to a 23% increase flux in heat from the elephant to the surrounding air. In the American South, hand-fans are used to generate a breeze of 2.5 cm/sec, enough for the user to bask in fan’s air-streams. Next, we find that elephantine ear flapping provides just such forced convection. Ear flapping rate is correlated with air temperature.

So, Elephant Hair! What is it good for? Elephant hair, like human hair, is not equally distributed the body. Notably on the forehead, lips (top and bottom) long, glamorous eyelashes. And the eyebrows are not so shabby either. Those of our ilk have eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. Eccrine for sweating and cooling and apocrine for stinking up the place. Elephants don’t have apocrine sweat glands. Their eccrine sweat glands are numerous between toes.

Follow that Elephant!

Photo: Psych USD, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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