Laughter is the Best Medicine

Cracking the code of the elephant skin

The African elephant thermoregulates through evaporative cooling which requires wetting of its skin through
regular bathing and spraying In addition to its characteristic wrinkling, the skin of the African elephant is deeply sculptured by an intricate network of sub-millimetric crevices. This fine pattern of channels allows spreading and retention of 5 to 10 times more water than on a flat surface. In addition, this cracking pattern improves
mud adherence, providing increased protection against
parasites and solar radiations. Using microscopy, computed tomography
and a custom physics-based model, we show that African elephant skin channels are fractures of the animal’s brittle outermost skin
layer. We show that this phenomenon is due to
local bending stress caused by the epidermis being simultaneously
hyper-keratinised, desquamation-deficient, and growing on a lattice of millimetric
dermal elevations.

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