Trunk


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Definition of Trunk
(Scientific name: Proboscis)

From the elephant glossary Section: elephant anatomy


Cross-section of an elephant trunk.
Cross-section of an elephant trunk.



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The elephant trunk does NOT have 150 000 muscles, or 120 000 or 40 000 or 20 000 muscles, the elephants trunk only have ONE muscle, named Musculus caninus!

But the trunk muscle consist of a large number of mucle fascicles. A muscle fascicle is a bundle of skeletal muscle fibers surrounded by perimysium, a type of connective tissue. Muscle cells are grouped into muscle fascicles by enveloping perimysium connective tissue. Fascicles are bundled together by epimysium connective tissue.


we extrapolated the complete number of fascicles (Figure 4G) and arrived at an estimate of about 90,000 fascicles, about 85% of which are radials and only 5% of which are longitudinals. We conclude that the elephant trunk contains an incredible number of fascicles and the trunk’s distal musculature, which mediates dexterous prehension, is made up of numerous extremely small radial fascicles.

Longren et al, Dense reconstruction of elephant trunk musculature


The trunk, or proboscis, is a fusion of the nose and upper lip, although in early fetal life, the upper lip and trunk are separated.

The trunk is elongated and specialized to become the elephant's most important and versatile appendage. It contains up to 150,000 separate muscle fascicles (a bundle of skeletal muscle fibers surrounded by perimysium, a type of connective tissue), with no bone and little fat. These paired muscles consist of two major types: superficial (surface) and internal. The former are divided into dorsals, ventrals, and laterals while the latter are divided into transverse and radiating muscles.

The muscles of the trunk connect to a bony opening in the Skull. The nasal septum is composed of tiny muscle units that stretch horizontally between the nostrils. Cartilage divides the nostrils at the base.[42] As a muscular hydrostat, the trunk moves by precisely coordinated muscle contractions. The muscles work both with and against each other. A unique proboscis nerve – formed by the maxillary and facial nerves – runs along both sides of the trunk.



Reference list Koehl, Dan, (2024). Trunk. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 20 September 2021 at https://www.elephant.se/index.php?id=40. (archived at the Wayback machine)


Sources used for this article is among others:


Selected publications
  • Luke L. Longren, Lennart Eigen, Ani Shubitidze, John A. Nyakatura, Thomas Hildebrandt, Michael Brech; Dense reconstruction of elephant trunk musculature, https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(23)01220-4

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