The Elephant's Nose Knows

An elephant’s nose doesn’t know if you’ve been sleeping, or if you’ve been good or bad, or even who holds the MLB record for most post-season bunts, but it can tell how much food is a bucket. And that’s a useful skill because when faced with buckets with different amounts of food, who wouldn’t pick the one with more food? I know I would.

Researchers figured out that elephants have this ability with the simplest of experiments. Heck, you could even do it at home. Just:

1: Get two buckets

2: Poke holes in the side so the smell of what’s in the bucket can get out

3: Put some food in one bucket. Put a greater amount of food in the other bucket.

4: Cover those buckets so the elephant can’t SEE how much food is in there.

5: Get a permit to bring an elephant to your house.

6: Let the elephant choose a bucket.


The researchers in this study actually just went to a zoo and let an elephant their do the experiment. They found that the larger the difference in the amounts of food in each bucket, the more successfully the elephant picked the bucket with more food. WITH HER NOSE. Many animals can tell the difference between two amounts of foods by looking at it, but the elephant can apparently tell by smell.

Having established this ability, the researchers would like to explore just how the heck the elephant can do this!

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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