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Nature & Environment

Do elephants have six toes ?

By T.K. Randall
December 26, 2011 · Comment icon 6 comments

Image Credit: Sandra Fenley
Scientists have determined that a long-debated bony growth on elephants' feet is actually a sixth toe.
The growth has been a subject of discussion amongst researchers for over 300 years and for a long time was thought to be nothing but a lump of cartilage with no specific purpose, but now scientists have been able to determine that the growth acts as a sixth toe to help support the elephants' massive weight. "It's a cool mystery that goes back to 1706, when the first elephant was dissected by a Scottish surgeon," said Professor John Hutchinson.
For more than 300 years, the structure has puzzled researchers, but this study suggests that it helps to support elephants' colossal weight. Fossils reveal that this "pre-digit" evolved about 40 million years ago, at a point when early elephants became larger and more land-based.


Source: BBC News | Comments (6)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Device 13 years ago
I do like elephants but to me, it doesn't really matter how many toes they have, not at all. 4, 5...8! The elephant will always look the same.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Big Jim 13 years ago
Why is this an "unexplained mystery"? If you want to know how many toes an elephant has tip one over and count them.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Saru 13 years ago
Why is this an "unexplained mystery"? If you want to know how many toes an elephant has tip one over and count them. It's an interesting story because elephants were thought to have only five toes, did you know that they have six ? Tipping one over and counting them won't work - the sixth toe isn't externally visible.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Abramelin 13 years ago
You want a real unexplained mystery?? Pink Elephants. I just KNEW they existed, but no one ever believed me: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7951331.stm
Comment icon #5 Posted by Funky Poacher 13 years ago
You want a real unexplained mystery?? Pink Elephants. I just KNEW they existed, but no one ever believed me: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7951331.stm Ppft, of course they exist... I see 'em all the time. That CT scan deffinitely makes it appear like it could be a toe. Can't believe it's taken this long to 'decide' that it is. I guess there's not a lot of interest in elephant feet?
Comment icon #6 Posted by SameerPrehistorica 13 years ago
I do like elephants but to me, it doesn't really matter how many toes they have, not at all. 4, 5...8! The elephant will always look the same. Same here..


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