How did elephant trunks evolve into their current amazing form?! How did elephant trunks evolve into their current amazing form?!

How did elephant trunks evolve into their current amazing form?!

How did elephant trunks evolve into their current amazing form?!

Elephants have amazing trunks that are strong and flexible, and now, scientists have figured out how the largest living land animals on Earth evolved their trunks.
The elephant's trunk is a wonder of evolutionary biology. It can reach more than 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length and contains more than 40,000 individual muscles and nerve fibers. It is characterized by the ability to lift more than 270 kg.

The precise environmental and biological pressures that led to the development of hoses have long puzzled scientists around the world, but a new study published in the journal eLife reveals that climate-induced changes may explain part of the puzzle.

Understanding the evolution of the elephant's trunk has been difficult, because soft tissues, such as muscle and skin, do not fossilize well. This makes it difficult for scientists to find direct evidence of early proboscis forms in fossil records.

Scientists explained that many animals with long proboscis have long lower jaws. But the long lower jaw shortens after co-evolution with the proboscis, although the relationship between the two is somewhat unclear.

In the new study, the researchers compared three major families of elephant-like mammals in northern China, which existed about 11 to 20 million years ago, and looked at how the physiology of these groups differed depending on their feeding strategies and ecosystems.

The groups included the Amebelodontidae, Cheerolophodontidae, and Gomphotheriidae, three distinct lineages of gomphotheriids (the ancestral group of living elephants).

The main author of the study, Chunxiao Li, a researcher at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that these ancient mammals were of particular interest because they had long but “divergent” lower jaws, so it is possible to infer how they influenced the evolution of the proboscis. 

The team analyzed the tooth enamel of these three species of early elephants to extract new clues about their eating habits and the environments in which they lived.

They found that Cheerolophodontidae appear to live in relatively closed environments such as forests, while Amebelodontidae have expanded into more open environments, such as grasslands. Gomphotheriidae appear to have lived in habitats that were somewhere in between.

Scientists combined these results with mathematical simulations of the jaw movement of these three extinct species.

“Cheerolophodontidae live in dense forests, so there are many plants with branches extending horizontally,” said study co-author Shi Zhi Wang, a professor at the Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Its jaws were suitable for applying pressure in the up and down directions, rather than forward or backward, which efficiently cut horizontal foliage. The researchers suggested that its proboscis was relatively primitive.

However, the jaws of both Gomphotheriidae and Amebelodontidae, which lived in more open environments, were better adapted to cutting vertically growing plants, such as soft-stemmed grasses. The nasal region of their skulls appears to be very similar to those of modern elephants, suggesting that their trunks were able to coil around and bring food directly to their mouths.

Open-land grazing may have fueled the evolution of the proboscis we see today, she told me. They also provide clues as to why forest-dwelling animals have relatively weak trunks compared to those of elephants.



Russia : Extracting jet fuel from bio-oils and cooking waste

Scientists at Tomsk University of Technical Sciences have obtained biofuel for civil aircraft from vegetable oils and cooking waste.

The researchers used four raw materials: camellia oil, rapeseed oil, and tall oil, in addition to waste oils used in cooking. Biofuels are more environmentally friendly compared to conventional aviation fuels derived from petroleum. But it should not be lower in terms of economic indicators. For this purpose, university scientists plan to select catalysts that allow obtaining biofuels with specific physical and chemical properties and increase their production.

“Three methods for producing such alternative fuels are being studied - fluid catalytic cracking, the Fischer-Tropsch process, and hydrocracking,” says Professor Yelena Ivashkina from the Department of Chemical Engineering.

For his part, Professor Dmitry Glushkov points out that Tomsk University scientists, in parallel with the use of artificial intelligence methods, are working on developing an intelligent database that will simplify the selection of components, catalysts and process parameters for obtaining new types of fuel from bio-raw materials on an industrial scale. This is a priority issue due to restrictions on the use of imported software products in Russian factories, which will simplify, accelerate and facilitate the creation, testing and production of components and fuel composition.

It is noteworthy that the production of fuel from waste oils used in frying is widespread in the world. In Spain, waste from olive oil production is used to produce biofuel. In England and Denmark, they are trying to replace gasoline with urine, and in France with waste from the wine industry.
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