Elephants hold the record for the number of neurons that control the face

(ORDO NEWS) — Biologists have estimated the size of the facial nerve nucleus in elephants, where sensory and motor signals converge from the front of the head, including the ears.

It turned out that these animals have more neurons here than any other land mammals, and an order of magnitude more than humans.

Asian and African elephants are the largest land animals, distinguished not only by their impressive trunks, but also by the largest ears in the world. It is not surprising that a large number of neurons are required to innervate their snouts.

Elephants have more of these neurons than any other land mammal, including humans, according to new estimates by German biologists.

Thomas Hildebrandt (Thomas Hildebrandt) and colleagues determined the number of cells in the nucleus of the facial nerve of elephants.

This is a tiny formation deep in the brainstem that serves as the main node for the exchange of sensory and motor signals with receptors and muscles of the face, including for controlling facial expressions.

Asian (Indian) elephants had about 54,000 neurons in this nucleus, while larger African elephants had about 63,000.

For comparison, in humans, it contains only eight to nine thousand cells, and only in dolphins there are much more, about 85 thousand.

Nevertheless, on land, elephants turned out to be champions in this indicator as well. However, this is hardly surprising, given at least the fact that the movements of their trunk are controlled by about 30 thousand small muscles, while there are only about 650 of them in the entire human body.

It is this complexity and precision of control that makes the trunk such a versatile tool that can lift and a heavy log, and a tiny nut.

African elephants control their trunk better and more accurately than Asian elephants, and these animals turned out to have slightly more neurons to control it. In addition, they also have more neurons in the nucleus of the facial nerve associated with the ears.

Apparently, this ensures high accuracy of their movements and excellent sensitivity, because the huge ears of these animals play an important role both in intraspecific communications and in cooling the massive body.


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