, Volume 13, Issue 7, pp 638–647 | Cite as

Why do elephants have big ear flaps?

  • Arunn NarasimhanEmail author
General / Article


In this essay we shall try to answer the question in the title with some geometry and heat transfer thrown in for effect. For doing so, as the joke goes, allow me to assume the elephant as a sphere. The reason will be apparent soon.


Heat transfer thermo-regulation convection elephants 


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Suggested Reading

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    P K Phillips, and J E Heath, Heat exchange by the pinna of the african elephant (Loxodonta africana), Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology, Vol.101, pp.693–699, 1992.Google Scholar
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    A A Kinahan, S L Pimm, and R J van Aarde, Ambient temperature as a determinant of landscape use in the savanna elephant, Loxodonta africana, Journal of Thermal Biology, Vol. 32, No.1, pp.47–58, January 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    F S Mohler, Oscillating heat flow from the pinna of the ear of the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), PhD thesis, University of Illinois, 1987.Google Scholar
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    A Bejan, Convection Heat Transfer, 3rd edition, John Wily & Sons, NY, 2003.Google Scholar
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    P K Phillips, and J E Heath, Dependency of surface temperature regulation on body size in terrestrial mammals, Journal of Thermal Biology, Vol.20, No.3, pp.281–289, June 1995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    P K Phillips and J E Heath, Heat loss in Dumbo: a theoretical approach, Journal of Thermal Biology, Vol.26, No.2, pp.117–12, April 2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    C Lavers, Why Elephants have Big Ears, St. Martin’s Griffin Reprint ed., 2002.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Heat Transfer and Thermal Power Laboratory Department of Mechanical EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology MadrasChennaiIndia

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