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Re: Looking for leaves and grass at sea?



>> Indian elephants habitually swim of the mainland to islands several 
>> kilometers out to sea in search of food.
>
>Strikes me as pretty odd behavior.  There must be more to the story here. 
> After all, if you were hungry for some nice green leaves, grass, or 
>etc., would you jump in the water and start swimming out to sea?

The author (sorry, still haven't gone back and checked) speculates that they
only explore the islands when they can smell interesting things on them.

>What is the bathymetry around California's Channel Islands, and those 
>islands off the coast of India?  Could elephantids walk there, grazing 
>(browsing) along the way, during sea-level lowstands?

Hmmm.  I don't think I made myself clear.  The modern Indian elephants
are OBSERVED swimming out to the islands off of the subcontinent and
off of Sri Lanka.  This is not a paleoexplanation for their presence
on the islands: it is instead a normal part of the coastal
population's behavior.

The bathymetry is quite deep around the Indian Ocean islands.  During
the glacial highstands, the coastlines of California and Catalina were
closer together, but there was still several miles of water and
hundreds of feet of depth between them.

Also, I think some of the posters are under the impression that
elephants are not good swimmers.  In fact, they can move a quite a
clip, and for long distances.  One once swam for forty some miles
after it fell off a boat while being shipped to a U.S. zoo (this is
cited in the article).  More recently, there was a commercial (for
what product, I can't recall) that featured great underwater shots of
swimming elephants.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661