Ear Size Helps Elephants Cool Down: Using Clay as an Elephant Model

Tyler Kilmer, Baylee Kennedy, Kenzie Hull, Adonis Hulbert, Scott Goeppner


 Bergmann hypothesized that animals of similar surface-area-to-volume ratio will inhabit the same environment. Large animals will be found in cool environments while small animals will be found in hot environments due to their inability to retain heat as well as their larger counterparts. We wanted to know why elephants could inhabit the hot environment of the South African savanna, when Bergmann states that animals of that size should, in theory, be found in cooler habitats. We wanted to know why their population was located in Africa, even though they have a large body mass and surface area. We designed an experiment to explain this concept by using clay balls with and without ears and tested to see how long they took to cool down. We found that large ears, in fact allow the elephant to remain in a hot environment despite its large size.

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