Questions for “Engineers surprised by the power of an elephant’s trunk”

an elephant takes a drink from a lake

African elephants can expand their nostrils while snorting up water. It’s a previously unrecognized trick that boosts their trunk’s capacity.

StuPorts/istock/getty images plus

To accompany “Engineers surprised by the power of an elephant’s trunk


Before Reading:

1.  What are at least three things that an elephant uses its trunk for?

During Reading:

1.  In what way is an elephant’s trunk not like a simple straw, according to the story?

2.  Among land animals, what makes the vacuuming (suction) action of an elephant unique?

3.  What role does the septum play in an elephant’s trunk?

4.  What did ultrasound measurements show about the capacity of an elephant’s trunk to hold or move water?

5.  Based on those ultrasound data, how fast can the studied elephant move air through her trunk?

6.  According to the story, in what way is an elephant’s trunk not like an octopus’s tentacles?

After Reading:

1.  We don’t know why elephants evolved their long trunks. But considering how they function, why might they have been especially useful for pachyderms? (Hint: Consider whether and how an elephant might have accomplished those tasks without a trunk.)