It is a fact that everyone knows from childhood. It sure seems strange, but are there few such things in our lives? For some mysterious reason, elephants are afraid of mice. It must be said that this surprising fact was already recounted by the Roman Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, written in the XNUMXst century.
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The giants' unusual reaction has not gone unnoticed and is regularly mentioned in fairy tales and now cartoons. The brave little mouse is the creature that terrifies the giant elephant. But zoos and circuses have made it possible to study the phenomenon calmly and reflectively, analyzing its causes.
So is there a scientific explanation for this irrational fear of elephants of mice? Scientists decided to investigate this phenomenon quite some time ago. There is a theory that the elephant fears that the small animal will enter its trunk, which could cut off the flow of oxygen. Another version is that a mouse can gnaw off its huge paws, forcing elephants to sleep standing up. A simpler version is that the giants are simply spooked by a quiet noise somewhere below.
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Fear of the whisper of elephants and noise
For elephants, the quiet whisper is associated with the approach of predators: this is how lions, tigers and leopards crouch when hunting the youngest members of the herd. This is how they get used from childhood, to the fact that the creak is associated with serious danger. But scientists have discovered that this is the initial reaction. So when the elephants see the source of the sound, they quickly calm down.
And if there are predators, humans, or a noise source nearby, the herd may forego sleep to move to a quieter location. Elephants do not like sudden noises or movements at all, so not only a mouse makes them suspicious or nervous, but also other creatures. Giants don't like anything running or rolling nearby. But besides mice, dogs, snakes, cats, and other creatures can also trigger anxiety.
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Are elephants afraid of mice?
Scientists regularly conduct experiments to try to understand the degree of "compatibility" between mice and elephants. The rodents were put both in the trunk and hidden inside it, hidden, and then suddenly released, placed on top of the sleeping giants. After all, you had to find out what exactly made the elephants start to freak out! But no reason was ever found. Richard Lair, a scientist at the National Elephant Institute of Thailand, doesn't understand why the giants can be scared in the first place. If a mouse gets into the trunk, the elephant can push it away. And he does not make sense to gnaw on the sole of an elephant's foot. The famous American circus Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey tried to understand the reason for elephants' fear of mice in 2006. The giants were shown the rodents, but they simply did not react to them. So the popular claim turned out to be a myth.
Elephants don't always sleep standing up either. Scientists from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa decided in 2017 to study elephants sleeping in their natural environment. It turned out that even a couple of hours of rest is enough for them to carry out their normal activities. And elephants don't come down to the ground very often, every three or four days. They spend almost an hour in this state. But this behavior is also common to other animals.
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What are elephants afraid of?
However, elephants are not scary at all. American scientists on a 2010 mission to Kenya found that elephants were reluctant to approach trees with ants. Researchers believe that the animals fear small insect bites on the mucosa of the trunk. Bees are also a danger to elephants. Although giants are often described as thick-skinned, they can actually feel their bites and the pheromones released by angry insects. Elephants pick up on this subtle scent and try to get away from it, obviously not wanting to be stung.
A special experiment was even conducted to confirm this fact. A mixture of pheromones was sprayed on rags, which were placed near the elephants' path to the watering hole. The animals, sensing something bad, tried to avoid the place. But pheromone-scented rags didn't elicit any particular reaction. So elephants are clearly wary of painful bites, avoiding their possible source. In Africa, farmers have even learned to use this fact to their advantage by placing bee hives near their crops. But scientists believe that it would be much easier and just as effective to use special matrices with the right aromas.