For elephants, its not just their ears and trunk that make them unique on land

San Diego, CA Each in their own way, Disney's Dumbo, Tarzan's Timba, and Barnum's Jumbo captured the public's imagination during their era. In San Diego, famous pachyderms include Empress and Queenie, the first elephants at the San Diego Zoo, brought to American in 1923 by the famous hunter Frank Buck. The elephant is the largest of all terrestrial mammals, as well as the symbol for the political party of the current White House. Despite so much versatility, some in the public do not realize that the elephant is also the only land-based mammal that can remain far below the surface of the water while snorkeling.

Snorkeling Elephants

What the overwhelming majority of the animal's numerous fans are unaware of is that the elephant is the only mammal whose pleural space, the potential space between the lung and the chest wall, is obliterated by connective issue.

What is the connection between these two unique elephantine attributes? Some recent studies have some scientists believing that elephants have an aquatic ancestry and these physical and behavioral characteristics are the result of evolution. This theory has not been proven.

The Presentation

There is, however, a physiological reason for the lack of space around an elephant's lungs that may support the evolutionary hypothesis of the animal's origin. Explaining why nature works the way is does is one of America's most renowned respiratory physiologists.

John B. West, of the University of California, San Diego's Department of Medicine. Dr. West is the author of "Why Doesn't the Elephant Have A Pleural Space," and "Snorkel Breathing in the Elephant Explains the Unique Anatomy of the Pleura." He will be discussing his research at the upcoming meeting of "The Power of Comparative Physiology: Evolution, Integration and Application" an American Physiological Society (APS) intersociety meeting being held August 24-28, 2002, at the Town & Country Hotel, San Diego, CA. For

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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