Sunday, August 21st, 2011 at 6:01 pm
Caption: Close-up of male elephant’s tusk, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.
Dale Peterson, in the excellent book Elephant Reflections that he co-authored with photographer Karl Ammann, says this of elephant tusks:
“Tusks are teeth, incisors that have grown over time and under evolutionary pressure taken on a projective profile. Like an ordinay tooth, a tusk’s hard outer husk protects an inner cavity of soft pulp and nerves, making it sensitive to pressure and, in case of injury, to pain. Instead of having roots, these specialized incisors are embedded for about a third of their length within a cranial socket.
“African savanna males will have tusks seven times heavier, on average, than those of the average female of the species: 49 kg (108 lbs) for the former, around 7 kg (15 lbs) for the latter.
“Not merely vital weapons, tusks are also highly functional tools: good for digging up underground water, minerals, and edible tubers. They serve as chisels to pry bark away from a tree, and as crowbars or levers to snap off branches or otherwise manipulate bulky or big objects.
“They are good things to rest a heavy trunk on (below), and, being electrical nonconductors, they’re useful as well for breaking down or through electric fences.
“Just as humans commonly prefer one hand over the other, so most elephants favor one tusk over the other, and typically these appendages will develop a consequental symmetry.”
Caption: Elephant bull resting his trunk on a tusk, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
See our previous post, In the Wake of Elephant Poachers, to see the sickening aftermath of a poaching sortie in the Lower Zambezi National Park, where the above photos were also taken.