Elephants are really smart.
Actress Kim Basinger, not long after her published financial struggles, took on a very noble cause: saving the endangered breed. Her celebrity drew worthy attention to the plight of these grand, lumbering creatures. I remember paying special attention, for two reasons: 1.) Kim Basinger had been raised among Bible-believing Christian fundamentalists, as had I; 2.) Ms. Basinger, a woman after my own heart, seemed to know something the rest of us would need to learn.
“The elephant (both Asian and African) has a very large and highly complex neocortex, a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin species.
Asian elephants have the greatest volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing of all existing land animals. It exceeds that of any primate species, with one study suggesting elephants be placed in the category of great apes in terms of cognitive abilities for tool use and tool making.
The elephant brain exhibits a gyral pattern more complex and with more numerous convolutions, or brain folds, than that of humans, other primates, or carnivores, but less complex than that of cetaceans. Elephants are believed to rank equal with dolphins in terms of problem-solving abilities, and many scientists tend to rank elephant intelligence at the same level as cetaceans; a 2011 article published by ABC Science suggests that, “elephants [are as] smart as chimps, [and] dolphins“.
Other areas of the brain
Elephants also have a very large and highly convoluted hippocampus, a brain structure in the limbic system that is much bigger than that of any human, primate or cetacean. The hippocampus of an elephant takes up about 0.7% of the central structures of the brain, comparable to 0.5% for humans and with 0.1% in Risso’s dolphins and 0.05% in bottlenose dolphins.
The hippocampus is linked to emotion through the processing of certain types of memory, especially spatial. This is thought to be possibly why elephants suffer from psychological flashbacks and the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).“
So, along with their obvious dominance in size among Earth’s living creatures, elephants apparently carry formidable capacities for comprehension.
Ergo the one stuck in the room, as it were, of our current public health aftermath. What would the elephant say, about the steadily increasing number of sudden deaths among our population?
The press releases had been identifying numerous cases of cardiac arrest; now, we note, the reports merely indicate death by “natural causes.” The latter phrase is usually employed to distinguish between those found under suspicious circumstances, i.e. homicide or suicide. Natural causes, however, cover a specific range: a.) massive stroke; and, b.) cardiac arrest. When one is found unresponsive, alone, at home, expired neither expectedly nor due to progressive deterioration, this is classified as a sudden death.
And, sudden death does occur. But, statistically, how frequently, and why do we now see reports of these daily?
The question is fundamental.
If only the elephant could speak.
Maybe a trip to the zoo is in order. My ears are open.
Copyright 5/13/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Sharing by blog link, exclusively; no copying – in whole/part/by translation. Thank you for considering the questions.