Mar 02, 2017 06:32 PM EST
The African elephants might be the largest creature on the face of the earth, but they have the shortest possible sleeping time for a mammal. A recent research dwells deep into the secret world of a sleeping elephant.
According to BBC, scientists pursued two elephants in the African region of Botswana in order to know about their natural sleep patterns. They found that though in zoos, elephants sleep for a period of four to six hours daily, in their natural habitats, they sleep for not more than two hours mostly at night. The two elephants chosen by the researchers were both females and were found to stay awake for several days. They only went down on the ground to sleep every three or four days and followed a phenomenon known as "rapid eye movement" (REM) or "dreaming sleep" in humans.
The researchers also related this "dreaming sleep" phenomenon with the fact that elephants have the best memory power among the animals. To find out more about elephants' sleeping habits in the wild, a "smart watch" like device was attached to the skin of the animals under their trunks. The device recorded when the elephants were sleeping, given that their trunks stayed still for five minutes or more. Gyroscopes were also attached to the elephants' body to assess their sleeping position. The animals were followed for five weeks, and many new insights on their sleep pattern were recorded.
The researchers had an idea that the elephants had such a short sleeping time as they were the largest mammals. Generally, the smaller the mammals' body, the more they sleep. For example, sloths sleep for almost 14 hours, while humans sleep for around 8 hours. The elephants surviving such small amount of sleep, though, remain a mystery.
According to Engadget, the usage of loggers and smart watches helped the researchers understand some aspect of the sleeping pattern of elephants. It is assumed important for two reasons, firstly for understanding the animals' behavioral patterns and strategize better management and conservation policies according to it. Secondly, to understand how different animals sleep compared to human and how it can help humans to get a better sleep pattern.
The researchers are planning for more follow-up studies on more elephants, including males, in order to find out more about "REM" sleep in them. It will also help them find out how "REM" sleep, which is common among most mammals, helps to lay down memories in animals.
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