What Can’t Elephant Trunks Do? – The trunk of an African elephant is an evolutionary marvel. Clocking in at weights well over 200 pounds, it ripples with thousands of individual muscles that help the superlong schnoz lift barbells, uproot trees, and fling bothersome lions into the air.
A tortilla chip is an embarrassment of engineering. It weighs a fraction of an ounce and can measure less than a millimeter thick; it is so woefully fragile that the heft of a guinea pig or a generous scoop of guacamole could easily snap it in two.
And yet a union between chip and trunk is not as impossible as it might seem. Andrew Schulz, an engineer at Georgia Tech, and his colleagues have caught such an improbable pair on camera, reconciling the absurd imbalance between them, and described it in a paper published today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. When offered a tortilla chip, they found, an elephant will use its trunk to deftly suction the salty treat into its grip. The chip stays intact (at least until it’s deposited into the elephant’s mouth).