Skin: An Additional Tool for the Versatile Elephant Trunk

Elephant biomechanics suggests a new approach for soft robotics

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Jason Maderer
College of Engineering
maderer@gatech.edu

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Summaries

Summary Sentence:

Skin plays an important role in allowing an elephant to stretch its trunk to grab food and other items.

Full Summary:

A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that an elephant’s muscles aren’t the only way it stretches its trunk — its folded skin also plays an important role. The combination of muscle and skin gives the animal the versatility to grab fragile vegetation and rip apart tree trunks. The findings could help build more flexible robotics.

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  • Elephant Elephant
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A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that an elephant’s muscles aren’t the only way it stretches its trunk — its folded skin also plays an important role. The combination of muscle and skin gives the animal the versatility to grab fragile vegetation and rip apart tree trunks.

The research, in collaboration with Zoo Atlanta, finds that an elephant’s skin doesn’t uniformly stretch. The top of the trunk is more flexible than the bottom, and the two sections begin to diverge when an elephant reaches more than 10%. When stretching for food or objects, the dorsal section of the trunk slides further forward.  

The findings could improve robotics, which today are typically built for either great strength or flexibility. Unlike an elephant’s trunk, the machines can’t do both.

Read about the study and see video from the experiments

Additional Information

Groups

College of Engineering, College of Sciences, School of Mechanical Engineering, School of Biological Sciences, Research Horizons

Categories
Research, Engineering, Robotics
Related Core Research Areas
Robotics
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Keywords
go-researchnews, go-bio, School of Biological Sciences
Status
  • Created By: Jason Maderer
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jul 18, 2022 - 2:54pm
  • Last Updated: Aug 24, 2022 - 12:12pm