Another Possible Use, to the Elephant, of Elephant Hair

Elephant hair — the hair found on elephants — poses intricate puzzles for those who are inclined to look closely. This study works at solving one set of those puzzles:

What Is the Use of Elephant Hair?Conor L. Myhrvold, Howard A. Stone, Elie Bou-Zeid [pictured here], PLoS ONE, 7(10), 2012, e47018. The authors, at Princeton University, explain:

“Elephant hair is the first documented example in nature where increasing heat transfer due to a low hair density covering may be a desirable effect, and therefore raises the possibility of such a covering for similarly sized animals in the past. This elephant example dispels the widely-held assumption that in modern endotherms body hair functions exclusively as an insulator and could therefore be a first step to resolving the prior paradox of why hair was able to evolve in a world much warmer than our own.”

(Thanks to investigator Stephen Wolfram for bringing this to our attention.)

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