An intricate network of minuscule crevices adorns the skin surface of the African bush elephant. By retaining water and mud, these micrometer-wide channels greatly help elephants in regulating their body temperature and protecting their skin against parasites and intense solar radiation. Today, researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and SIB report in the journal Nature Communications that African elephant skin channels are true fractures of the animal brittle and desquamation-deficient skin outermost layer. The scientists show that the elephant hyperkeratinised skin grows on a lattice of millimetric elevations, causing its fracture due to local bending mechanical stress.

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Reference: ‘Locally-Curved Geometry Generates Bending Cracks in The African Elephant Skin’ by Martins, Bennett, Clavel, Groenewald, Hensman, Hoby, Joris, Manger & Milinkovitch. Nature Communications (2018) DOI : 10.1038/s41467-018-06257-3