Elephant Biomechanics

Why elephants?

Elephant Trunks are amazing appendages that are comprised purely of muscle. Their weight and length both increase as the elephant grows up. The elephant trunks I study are of the African Elephant. A unique part of the African elephant trunk is the two fingers they have on the tip of their trunk.


Elephants are


In 1985 Bill Kier coined the term muscular hydrostats. Describing appendages that are purely muscular that are capable of elongation, shortening, bending, and torsion all while maintaining conservation of volume

Muscular hydrostats are ideal for bio-inspired design for new and advanced soft robotics. Robots that contain no hard joints or parts (just like the elephant doesn't have joints or bones inside the trunk)

Hand Feeding Elephant

Elephant Trunks


Octopus Arms

Happy Puppy

Mammailian Tongues

Computer Robot

I'm currently working on several different projects focused on the mechanics and materials of the elephant trunk that allow it to accomplish remarkable tasks while only using muscles!


Elephant trunks are one of the three main examples of muscular hydrostats along with octopus arms and mammalian tongues. They are the construction cranes of the animal kingdom with the ability to push over 400 kg trees, but also have the precision to pick up a tortilla chip without breaking it. This makes the elephant trunk an ideal bio-inspiration for a new type of soft robot mimicking the unmatched strength and flexibility the elephant is able to do. 


Elephant trunks are unique compared to the other muscular hydrostats as they contain two nasal passageways running the span of the elephant trunk. These passageways allow the elephant to use their trunk as a snorkel when traversing deep water. They also provide support for the elephant to suction water and food into their trunk using a vacuum seal from a muscle and cartilage mechanism in their head giving them the ability to close off their trunk so water does not impact their breathing. 


Elephant skin contains folds and wrinkles along the trunk which allow them strength with flexibility. We are examining how the geometry, macro and micro material properties contribute to the skin's ability to elongate and shorten.