Science Reporting

Elephants know how to quantify food by smell with precision

A particular feature of elephants has been discovered by a group of researchers who published their study on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Although well analyzed and studied, elephants have a characteristic related to their sense of smell that until now had remained unknown: they are able to quantify the portions of food not only by sight but also by smell.

During various experiments, scientists have in fact discovered that elephants were able to quantify the number of sunflower seeds closed inside several buckets covered with the lid. The elephants clearly showed that they preferred buckets with the largest number of seeds, even though they could not see inside nor can they move the bucket itself. The greater the number of seeds inside the bucket, the greater the number of elephants who preferred the fuller buckets.

This is the first example of an animal that can quantify, in a fairly precise way, the quantity of a material only through the smell.

What can this discovery be used for? Currently, in many regions of the world elephants are considered as annoying for various human activities and the same humans face many difficulties to move them away from different sites of interest. With this discovery, elephants can be directed to a point where food is accumulated more efficiently.