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This week we pay tribute to our big, wrinkly, grey friends with funky trunks: elephants!  Head to to see some great pictures from Ceri’s Fact Off fact, and to find out how you can help support SciShow Tangents, and see all the cool perks you’ll get in return, like bonus episodes and a monthly newsletter!A big thank you to Patreon subscribers Eclectic Bunny and Garth Riley for helping to make the show possible!Follow us on Twitter @SciShowTangents, where we’ll tweet out topics for upcoming episodes and you can ask the science couch questions! While you're at it, check out the Tangents crew on Twitter: Ceri: @ceriley Sam: @slamschultz Hank: @hankgreen[Fact Off]Elephants and bees skin wrinkles simulation image:[Ask the Science Couch]Elephant communication/grief/etc.[Butt One More Thing]Elephant gold enema 
[SciShow Tangents Intro theme music plays]

Hank: Hello and welcome to SciShow Tangents, the lightly competitive knowledge showcase! I'm your host Hank Green, and joining me this week, as always, is science expert, Ceri Riley.

Ceri: Hello!

Hank: And our resident everyman, Sam Schultz.

Sam: Hello!

Hank: I have been thinking... The odds are that, if superpowers developed, that those superpowers would almost universally be pretty useless. There would be some people who got super strength and laser vision, but almost everyone would get something completely mundane and boring. And so I would like to tell you that I think what my superpower would be, based on my personality, is that I would probably would be able to, um, grow really big or really small. But, like, not like really, really big. Like, I probably would be able to get, like, maybe six-foot-six if I needed to. And I could go down to like five-six if I needed to. And I think that'd be fun. I don't think it would be particularly useful, except that I could be tall and look over fences.

Sam: You can fit into a lot more clothes.

Hank: I can fit into more clothes. I can fit into any clothes! That would be amazing!

Sam: That would be a really good power, actually.

Hank: Wow, yeah. That'd be such a fun power! And then when I'm on airplanes, I'd be as small as I can get. So I could be more comfy.

Sam: I wish you could get, like, toddler size though. That would be even more fun.

Hank: I... I mean, everybody knows... That my pet thing is that humans should be four feet tall!

Sam: I shouldn't have even brought it up, but it would be so fun to ride in a plane like that again, where you don't even think about leg room. You're just like sitting fully on the chair.

Hank: Yeah. So that's mine. Ceri, what do you think your pathetic power would be?

Ceri: I have mine. I'm ready for this question. I don't know why?

Hank: You were born ready.

Ceri: It would be: be able to catch anything, like, that I drop within an arm's reach.

Hank: Like Spider-Man in the Spider-Man movie where, like, that tray gets knocked over?

Ceri: Not web slinging or anything. Like, nothing out of reach. But if I, like, drop an Oreo, as I'm trying to eat it—it's falling out of my mouth—I can catch it again. Or if I drop a glass of water, it could spill, but I'd catch the glass.

Sam: [Laughs] That's the important thing.

Hank: Yeahhh. Those are some of the most impressive moments that I have. When I drop an Oreo and then catch it. I'm like, wow, who's that guy?

[Ceri and Sam laugh]

Ceri: Mhmm. Beyond hand-eye coordination! It's just like my body knew how important this cookie was to me. I couldn't drop it.

[Sam laughs]

Hank: Sam, do you have a pathetic superpower you'd like to share?

Sam: I think it would be nice—I would like to be able to make everyone around me just, like, 5% calmer. So then no one was ever mean to me.

Hank: [Gasps] That's perfect!

Sam: Yeah. Maybe... more than five.

Hank: A lot of the times, uh, superheroes can, like, manipulate people's minds. But like, you never think of that on a sliding scale where it's like, "I can manipulate people's minds, but really I can mostly just make people a tiny bit more chill."

Sam: Yeah. I think that would be nice.

Hank: Oh yeah.

Sam: Just enough so that I never have to worry about somebody—like, a stranger saying something rude to me. Everybody's just calm.

Hank: We can call it—you can call you... Weed Man.

Sam: Yeah!

Ceri: [Laughs] I was thinking Cool Sam.

Hank: Cool Sam: The Human Marijuana.

Sam: I like that a lot. Cool Sam. That's a good superhero name.

Hank: [Laughs] Ceri can be...Never Drops It.

[Ceri and Sam laugh]

Hank: And I can be... The Amazing Little Bit Expanding And Shrinking Man.

[Ceri and Sam laugh]

Hank: Every week here on SciShow Tangents, we get together to try to one-up, amaze, and delight each other with science facts while also trying to stay on topic. But we aren't great at that, which is why we named the podcast the way we did. Our panelists are playing for glory and for Hank Bucks, which I will be awarding as we play. And at the end of the episode, one of them will be crowned the winner and one of their facts will be selected for my TikTok. Now, as always, we introduce this week's topic with the traditional science poem... this week from meee!

[Science Poem theme music plays]

Hank: Four people standing with their hands on a thing. Each one has a blindfold tied on with a string. One says, "Well, this thing is clearly a wall. I've spent plenty of time; I've now felt it all." "A wall?," says another, "I know we can't see, but there's no doubt in my mind that this is a tree." "A tree?!," the third laughs, "you must be a dope. I've felt up and down it and this is a rope." The last person laughs and his big belly quakes, "You think this is a rope? It's alive! It's a snake!" But the fifth person watching with eyes unoccluded says, "I'm way over here and I have concluded: when you only feel part of what's there it's irrelevant. When you see everything, you see an elephant."

Sam: Oh, I like that!

Hank: The topic for the day is elephants. Ceri, what are elephants?

Ceri: Elephants are big, big friends. They're the largest living land animal. They are herbivorous, so they mostly eat plants. I don't know...their key body features are usually big ears, their trunk that they can move around and use to grab stuff or drink water or—or, like, snorkel air. And their long, curved, ivory tusks, which are modified teeth and have been used by humans in a lot of, like, materials manufacturing. And that's why—a big part of why elephants are endangered because we, like, we liked—that—them pearly whites so much that we just keep stealing them.

Hank: It's a wild thing to me that for so long, every billiard ball was made of ivory.

Sam: Yeah.

Hank: Like just what a terrible, terrible thing. Like, that's the only way we could think to do that? And there—like there's a lot of billiard balls.

Sam: Yeah. Plastic stinks in a lot of ways, but...

Hank:'s a heck of a lot—This is what I always say when people talk about fossil fuels and incandescent light bulbs... I'm like, look, we used to burn whales.

Sam: [Sadly] Yeah.

Hank: So, like, one step a time, you guys. We stopped burning whales and, like, plastic's bad, but we used to make billiard balls out of dead elephants. Anyway. So elephants are big billiard ball machines. They just crank 'em right out.

[Ceri and Sam laugh]

Hank: But it does—it seems like elephants aren't that related to anything else left? So there's not a lot of, like, weird fuzzy area where it's like, "Is that an elephant?" But I guess in the fossil record there—I'm sure that there is... Are—are mammoths? Were mammoths elephants?

Ceri: Yeah. So elephants, um, the family is Elephantidae. That includes all large mammals that we would call elephants or mammoths. And actually, so there are only three living species of elephant. There's the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant. And Asian elephants are actually more closely related to wooly mammoths than they are to African elephants, because of when everything diverged.

Hank: Huh, cool! Ceri, where does the word elephant come from? It sounds like it's got to come from somewhere.

Ceri: Yeah. But it doesn't come from anywhere... known?

Hank: Oh, interesting!

Ceri: So, um, we, as humans used to use the same word for both elephant and ivory. So we really did think of elephants as piano key/billiard ball machines.

Sam: Harsh.

Ceri: And so in ancient Greek, for example, elephas, e-l-e-p-h-a-s meant elephant or ivory. Interchangeably. And this is one of the words that—probably the only one I've seen this in this etymology dictionary that I often refer to—that did not come from a Indo-European language. It was likely from Phoenician or possibly Sanskrit for elephant, which makes sense because there weren't elephants wandering around in Europe. So no one would have come up with a word for it. And once Europeans started colonizing other areas of the world, then they were like, what's this? Oh, I want the stuff from it. I'm just going to use that word.

Hank: Yeah, it's not like they would just, like, slap a label on it and be like, "Well, that's a—that's a noodle cow! Uh, this is very different from other stuff." Like, you'd be like, "Well that one we do—we do not have a name for that. I can't really put a European name on that. That one's real weird."

Sam: Yeah.

Hank: All right, now that we know what an elephant is, it's time to move on to the quiz portion of our show. This week I'm going to be doing... Truth or Fail.

[Truth or Fail theme music plays]

Hank: Because elephants, as you may have heard, are very big. And they need to eat a lot of plants because that's what they eat. But plants actually, all things considered, would rather not be eaten, thank you very much. So African plants have developed some strategies on the savanna to avoid elephant predation. In particular, one of the following three bizarre strategies is used by an African plant. The other two facts are fake ones. Which one of these is true... are you ready?

Ceri & Sam: Yeah.

Hank: All right. Fact number one: we have Acacia drepanolobium, which has developed a symbiotic relationship with ants seemingly specifically in order to deter elephant predation, because elephants are just really not fans of ants at all, and they totally freak out if ants get in their snoots. So they just avoid that particular kind of acacia, though they happily eat other acacias and scientists have actually even offered elephants, Acacia drepanolobium leaves with the ants removed and the elephants are happy to eat it once the ants have been removed. But when they're on the tree and they're covered in ants, absolutely not will the elephants eat them. Fact number two: Jackalberry trees are a kind of tree in savannas and they keep elephants at bay by providing fruits for, you guessed it, jackals.

Hank: They're called jackalberry trees because jackals love their fruits and the jackals will hang out under the tree because there's such good nutrition for them there. And jackals are apparently enough deterrent to keep the elephants away, even though, like, an elephant could definitely take a jackal in a fight. It just seems like elephants, in general, would just kind of rather not get involved in drama at all. If it could be avoided.

Ceri: I love that.

Hank: Or it could be fact number three: Bermuda grass is generally avoided by elephants—not entirely, but generally. There are other grasses that elephants prefer. And scientists think this is not because it's poisonous, but maybe because it was once poisonous. Bermuda grass appears to have very low levels of toxins that could hurt elephants in large amounts, but wouldn't be a big problem for them in the current amounts, but the elephants still avoid it. And one theory is that Bermuda grass used to be more toxic to elephants, but elephants have, over the centuries, just remembered that that grass is bad for them. And they communicate that down the line as they sort of communicate what are the best things to eat. So they've remembered it so long that Bermuda grass has lost the evolutionary pressure necessary to keep the production of the toxin going. So now it just has much less of the toxin because elephants avoid it just 'cause they, like, culturally avoid it. So it could be any one of those three facts. Is it that there is an acacia with a symbiotic ant relationship, there's a jackalberry tree with a symbiotic jackal relationship, or Bermuda grass that used to be toxic... but kind of isn't anymore?

Sam: Wow.

Ceri: I love all of these because it really paints elephants with a really rational light. Like, "I just—I'm not going to eat anything that I have to work too hard for."

Hank: [Laughs] Yeah, "I mean, look, I'm an elephant. There's plenty of food for me because you've killed all my friends. Like, that—we're good on that front. So I'm going to be picky." Absolutely.

Ceri: "Nothing can eat me. And so I'm just going to meander around and I refuse to be annoyed."

Sam: Does actually nothing eat elephants?

Hank: Uh, not adults.

Sam: They're pretty big.

Hank: Yeah.

Sam: I don't think it's number one because I think number one is based on the fact that I'm going to talk about possibly... Or else elephants are just very cowardly about bugs in general.The jackal one... I don't believe that a jackal would eat a berry! I can't see it.

Hank: Well, you're also imagining a berry as, like, what we call berries, but it might not be that kind of berry. And a Jackal Berry is... a little bit bigger than what you would probably think of as a berry. They're, like, larger than a grape, but not that much, I think.

Sam: Okay.

Ceri: And fruits have different textures too, like jackfruit or durian. It's like meaty. If you see it—you see in, like, the meat substitute aisle.

Hank: Right, one of the main things you need to know about jackalberries is that they're just full of meat.

[Ceri laughs]

Sam: Oh, okay. Well then that makes more sense. And then the last one seems so detailed.

Ceri: Yeah, it does seem really detailed. [laughs]

Sam: Either... it's a big old trick or like a really good trick or you've made a—an error. And that's the one.

Ceri: I think I liked the story of the grass the best, because it's like—it's like, if my grandpa told me not to eat peaches or something. He's like, "Oh, I had a bad peach this one time. It was gross." And then I never ate them because of it.

Sam: The whole Riley family just doesn't eat peaches anymore.

Ceri: Yeah, 'cause there's like lore. Uh, and I think that's just very funny that you'd be picky based on something like that.

Hank: All right, but I'm going to need you guys to answer the question. One, two, or three?

Ceri: I think it's the grass.

Hank: Ceri's going for Bermuda grass.

Sam: Despite what I said, I'm going to pick number one.

Hank: Sam came back around to the right answer!

Sam: Oooh!

Ceri: Oh my gosh. I was like, "Oh, Sam knows so much!"

Hank: Yeah, so not only do these ants and the symbiotic relationship that they have with these trees. Um, not only are they—do they absolutely deter elephants from eating those trees, but it is becoming clear as elephant populations increase in some places that this is actually a really important relationship that prevents, like, the complete destruction of foresty parts of the savanna and that it could potentially have a really big impact on the ecosystem. But yeah, elephants are very tough on the outside, but if you're little and you get inside of their nose, it is—they really dislike it. So they are avoiding these trees and it seems like the trees have intentionally created habitats that are appealing to ants. I don't know if they make, like, food for the ants, cause I didn't get deep enough into the paper. But the paper was mostly about, like, the longterm impacts on the savanna of having a tree that basically can't be predated on by elephants. Jackalberry trees do exist and jackals do love jackalberries, but has nothing to do with elephants. And then the Bermuda grass, I hundred percent just made up.

Ceri: [Disappointed] OH no.

Sam: It was a beautiful tale you weaved.

Hank: Congratulations, Sam! You're headed into the break with one point more than Ceri, which is a good sign because, as you may have noticed, you've been down for a few episodes now.

Sam: [Sarcastically] I have? I haven't been paying attention.

Hank: [Laughs] Now we're going to take a quick break and then it will be time for the Fact Off.

[A transitional snippet of the SciShow Tangents Intro theme music plays]

Hank: Welcome back, everybody! It's time for the Fact Off.

[Fact Off theme music plays]

Hank: Our panelists have brought science facts to present in an attempt to blow my mind. After they have presented their facts, I will judge them and award Hank Bucks any way I see fit. And the winner will get a TikTok made from their content. To decide who goes first in our Fact Off, I have a trivia question for you to answer. As Ceri has mentioned, elephants are big. I also mentioned that.

[Ceri, Hank, and Sam all laugh]

Hank: So, sometimes—sometimes the word elephant refers to other animals that also happen to be very big. And the elephant bird is no exception. Elephant birds are extinct ratites, uh, which are related to kiwi birds and ostriches and in September, 2018. The Vorombe titan, one genera of elephant bird, was determined by scientists to be the heaviest bird to have ever existed. How much did this three-meter-tall bird weigh?

Ceri: Um, now I'm trying to think of other big birds because—and I just am bad at guessing weights in general. So really I've got nothing going for me and I want Sam to go first so that I can go above or below.

Sam: I feel like they're deceptively heavy, but I also have no concept of weight or height or anything like that. So I'll say 400 pounds.

Hank: 400 pounds.

Ceri: Okay. I am going to say 350.

Hank: [Triumphantly] 1600 POUNDS!

Ceri: Ohhhhhh!

Sam: What the fuck? Okay.

Ceri: That's a big bird.

Hank: [Laughs] That's a big bird!

Sam: Yeah.

Hank: Birds are actually usually deceptively light because of how they have to fly. But not these big birds. They got—they big. They're big and they can kick a hole in you. And that means that Sam gets to choose who goes first.

Sam: I think I'll go first. How about that?

Hank: Yeah, please do.

Sam: All right. If you watch cartoons, you've probably seen the following scenario a million times, which you've alluded to already: a big mean elephant is stomping around, being a tough guy, until a teeny little mouse scampers by. At which point the elephant hops up on its back legs or, like, up on a chair or something and says, "Oh, get it away from me! Get it away from me!" Uh, and this is such a specific image that you'd have to assume that it comes from real life. And, indeed, there are stories dating back to ancient Greece that elephants fear mice, because they can crawl up their noses when they're asleep. That's thought to be the original version of it.

Hank: Right, that's why the Greeks thought this was a thing?

Sam: Well, some Greek guy wrote a book where he said he saw it happen.

Hank: Pliny the Elder? Was it Pliny the Elder?

Sam: Actually, I think it was Pliny the Elder.

[Ceri and Hank laugh]

Sam: Or another thought is that the mice will spook an elephant, like, as they're scampering around their feet. But it's not really true. So everyone from scientists to the MythBusters have tested this legend and found that elephants don't really seem to give a heck about mice—a mouse at all.

Hank: Aw, dangit!

Sam: You know, they can be spooked by things running past their feet sometimes, but it's not really that consistent. And it's definitely not just mice that do it. However, there is another teeny, swarming, furry creature that elephants of both the African and Asian variety are afraid of on an almost cartoon-like level: BEES. So while a bee can't sting an elephant in most places on its thick hide, uh, bees can apparently—like ants—fly into the trunk of an elephant and sting 'em all up or fly into an elephant's eyes and sting 'em all up. And I guess they know to fly into their nose or into their eyes to get them. So elephants understandably do not like this. And they have been observed freaking out and fleeing at even the sound of a buzzing swarm of bees. And while this is sad for elephants, elephant researchers saw an opportunity to exploit this behavior to help keep elephants and the people who live near elephants safe. So elephants are big, like we said a million times, and they do whatever they want and sometimes doing whatever they want means stomping all over crops or breaking down fences that keep livestock in or, like, going into cities where they shouldn't be and hurting people... and getting hurt themselves, I suppose, too. Pretty much the only way to stop this from happening is by, like, digging a big moat or building a giant wall or killing the elephant. And none of those are great, uh, and not everyone has the resources to build that stuff or dig moats. Plus it would probably be really bad for the environment to have giant walls and moats all over where elephants live. So a scientist who was working on this problem, Dr. Lucy King, came up with an idea to surround the perimeter of farm lands with beehives, which proved, like, incredibly successful. And then eventually a bigger project called the Elephant and Bees Project was born where farmers all over Africa, were given a bunch of beehives, uh, which keep the elephants away and they produce honey that the farmers can sell as well. Uh, and as of 2020, this method of elephant control is used in 19 countries to ward off African and Asian elephants. So keeping bees isn't something everybody has the resources for, either, so there's a cheaper and easier alternative that's been being developed right now. Elephants, it seems like have hated bees for so long that they've developed the ability to sense the bee's alarm pheromone, which is what makes other bees come and swarm and help a bee who's in trouble sting. So right now, they're doing pheromone tests that,, so far have successfully repelled 25 of 29 African elephants in, like, one of the tests they did. So they're, like, isolating pheromones and then putting it into, like, a gel that you can spray around your farm to keep elephants away from it instead of having actual bees.

Hank: Wow! [Claps] That's a good fact, Sam.

Sam: [Laughing] Thanks!

Hank: It's got surprise: they're not afraid of mice, but they are afraid of bees.

Sam: Yeah. It also seems like elephants are afraid of freakin' everything. They might as well be afraid of mice, they're afraid of everything else!

[Ceri and Hank laugh]

Hank: Seems like mostly they're afraid of stuff getting in their nose. Which I get.

Ceri: Yeah, social insects that just really get in their holes.

[Hank and Sam laugh]

Sam: Yeah.

Hank: Ceri, what's your fact?

Ceri: Well, nothing to do with social insects. Or holes—well... kind of holes! So one of the distinctive features of African elephants is their gray, super wrinkly skin. It's not very pliable, so it's loose around their knees and necks and other joints to help them move around. And a big adaptive benefit of these wrinkles is that mud and water can seep into them rather than rolling off smooth skin. And this helps keep African elephants cool. And a thick layer of mud can act like sunscreen and keep parasites from biting. And the cracks in African elephant skin look kind of like dried cracked mud or clay or salt flats. And the way that works is that ground used to be saturated with water, but over time, the water evaporates, so the clay or whatever shrinks and these random-ish crack patterns form... and there's actually a lot of scientific study into this crack formation in a lot of detail, like the mechanical and environmental forces. And for a long time, this is what researchers assumed was going on with African elephant skin. Basically, they live in a dry environment, so their skin doesn't stay moist enough shrinks and cracks, which is what we've also experienced as humans who live in Montana, if we don't moisturize. But when some researchers simulated African elephant skin shrinkage with a computer program in a 2018 paper, it didn't look right. There were too many cracks facing weird directions and the wrinkle pattern was all off. So there had to be a different explanation. And the simulation that looked most like real elephant skin was really thick skin that eventually bent under its own weight. So this combined with a careful look at a tissue sample, helped them realize that African elephants hang on to layers and layers and layers of dead skin their whole lives, weighing the surface of their skin down, and creating this iconic wrinkly texture that helps them survive. So whatever you do, don't exfoliate an elephant. They have a great adaptation going on and their skin has completely different needs than ours.

Hank: So they just hold onto their dead skin cells as like just keratinocyte-type things forever, and it just like layers and layers and layers up.

Sam: Ewww.

Ceri: Yeah, so baby elephants are less wrinkled. They have like the initial wrinkles around their joints from loose skin. But then as they get older and older, they get old and crackly just 'cause you got chonks of dead skin on there.

Hank: Interesting. So it's basically like the elephant's whole body is just like the foot pad of a dog.

Ceri: Yeah, just like keratinized layers that are kind of compressed down and weird and dirty.

Sam: [As if it's cute or sad] Ohhh.

Hank: I want to touch one now. I've never touched an elephant.

Sam: Me either! They look so soft, but they're not, huh?

Hank: Has anybody here touched an elephant?

Ceri: No. Oh—TUNA!

Hank: Tuna has!

Sam: Tunaaaa? Let's get a report. What was it like?

Tuna: It was, I don't know. I touched one when I was at a circus once as a little kid. And I remember it feeling very—very, like, hard and rough. But also like a little bit fuzzy? But not like soft-fuzzy, like prickly-fuzzy.

Sam: [Intrigued] Ahhh.

Tuna: Yeah.

Hank: Okay, so not, like—Wouldn't wanna rub your face on it.

Tuna: Yeah, I wasn't—I wasn't a huge fan of it, I'll be honest. Also, I was a small guy and they made me ride the elephant. Looking back, I'm like—well, I'm sure that elephant was not having a great time either. But, like, I know I definitely, wasn't.

[Ceri, Hank, and Sam all laugh]

Tuna: So I don't know why they made us do it! 'Cause neither of us were having a good time!

Hank: For the PHOTO, Tuna. We had to get a photo that we would get developed at Walgreens.

[Sam and Tuna laugh]

Hank: All right. So now I have to choose between elephant skin and elephant bees and I... have to choose elephant bees.

Sam: Wow! I didn't expect that.

Hank: It's just a better TikTok.

[Ceri and Sam laugh]

Hank: And Sam, that means that you're the winner of the episode!

Sam: Hooray!

Hank: Now it's time to Ask the Science Couch. We've got a listener question for our couch of finely honed scientific minds. Ceri, what is that question?

[Ask the Science Couch theme music plays]

Ceri: There are two questions...

Hank: Oh God!

Ceri: ...from two people, that are related. @Fruitybuddha asks, "Do they have a religion?" And @OllyStewart4 asks, "How complex is elephant communication compared to humans' communication?"

Hank: Do elephants have religion? I think—I would venture to say... big old no. Though I—I have heard that they mourn and that they do have seemingly what, you know, we would anthropomorphize as kind of mourning rituals. And when I say mourning, I mean with a "u."

Ceri: Yeah. Although they also experience morning, the rising of the sun... the mourning with the "u."

[Sam laughs]

Ceri: So yes, people like to anthropomorphize animals when they do anything that seems more complicated or especially social-type behaviors that remind us of humans, then we're like, "Oh, let's put human labels on this and make a lot of assumptions about what they're thinking and feeling during these processes." So I'm going to try really hard not to do that. But, uh, one of the reasons why we think elephant communication is so complicated is because of the way that they treat the dead. Removing elements of, like, grief or intention in this, elephants tend to spend time around dead elephants. And, like, their trunks are already, like, very important sensory organs. They use a lot of gestural communication as they communicate to each other. So, like, a lot of touching each other with trunks, in addition to, like, picking up objects and observing them, things like that. And so they also gesture at and can caress dead elephant skeletons or tusks and have been witnessed carrying these things around. Researchers, again, try not to read too much motivation into them, but this is like more attention than many other animals devote to corpses of their own species. There's someone who studies a lot of elephant social behaviors. Her name is Karen McComb and she has studied elephants' responses to different calls. So, like, how elephants respond to different human voices and whether they can recognize patterns in similar tones or similar sounds. But a big thing that gets referenced in popular science articles is that she played from a speaker, the sound of a 15 year old female elephant who had died to a herd that was her family... Once a few months after her death, and once 23 months late. And they remembered the sound, like, and ran towards the speaker.

Hank: Oh my God.

Ceri: I don't know if we've tested this in other animals, but because there's a lot of study around elephant death and this is—this is always tacked onto like, "Oh, elephants grieve because they remembered the voice and ran towards the speaker." It's possible that, whether or not they understand what death is, you just hear a call that you recognize and you run towards it. So yeah, there's like ritualization around grief that is interesting to human researchers, as well as, like, other complex communication like I mentioned... like gestures with their trunks or like different tones with their vocal communications and, like, very low registers or, like, infrasound and stomping. And it seems like there's a lot of different ways that we've observed elephants communicating. And so we assume that because they're social animals and because they have all these different ways of communicating that they're pretty complex, uh, and their brains are pretty complex, but that is as far as I will draw a conclusion on that.

Hank: Right, right, right.

Ceri: Oh, and then the religion. I'm just going to monologue. But, uh [laughs], the religion stuff—apparently there's a popular tweet going around? Um, so this is the Science Couch debunking corner. But it's our old friend Pliny the Elder, which I think is very funny that he said something else that elephants are scared of mice. And he wrote that, quote, "It has a religious respect also for the stars and a veneration for the Sun and the moon."

Sam: Whaaa?

Ceri: And that has been, like, misquoted and mistranslated to like, "Elephants raise their trunks up at the moon and look at it in—in veneration." And has been cited and recited and not checked.

Hank: Yeah, I mean the idea of ever taking anything that that guy said at face value, like, he wrote down every thought that ever occurred to him.

[Ceri and Sam laugh]

Hank: That was his, like, main strategy—Like, I'm not saying... Look. Science is different now than it was then, like, Pliny the Elder did lots of very important stuff. And I'm very glad that he wrote a lot of stuff down, because we rely on him for a lot of understanding of how people imagine the world. And also, like, he got stuff right. I'm not saying he didn't get anything right. But like, that's not a source.

[Ceri, Hank, and Sam all laugh]

Hank: Well, if you want to Ask the Science Couch your question, follow us on Twitter @SciShowTangents, where we'll tweet out topics for upcoming episodes every week. Thank you to @chronictanvi, @appython3, and everybody else who tweeted us your questions for this episode.

[SciShow Tangents Outro theme music]

Hank: If you like this show and you want to help us out, it's super easy to do that! First, you can go to to become a patron and get access to things like our newsletter and also our bonus episodes. Bonus episodes like Stump Hank, Poopoopeepeepedia, and Q and Bidet! Look, that's gonna be worth it! You can also leave us a review wherever you listen—that's helpful to us, it helps us know what you think about the show. Finally, if you want to show your love for SciShow Tangents, just...

Ceri, Hank, & Sam: Tell people about us!

Hank: Thank you for joining us. I've been Hank Green...

Ceri: I've been Ceri Riley...

Sam: And I've been Sam Schultz.

Hank: SciShow Tangents is created by all of us and produced by Caitlin Hofmeister and Sam Schultz who edits a lot of these episodes along with Hiroka Matsushima. Our social media organizer is Paola Garcia-Prieto. Our editorial assistant is Deboki Chakravarti. Our sound design is by Joseph "Tuna" Metesh. And we couldn't make any of this without our patrons on Patreon. Thank you, and remember: "the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted."

[SciShow Tangents Outro theme music plays]

Sam: But! One more thing.

[Butt One More Thing theme music plays]

Sam: In 1514, King Manuel I of Portugal gifted an elephant named Hanno to Pope Leo X. The pope freaking loved Hanno and built a special house for him and paraded him through Rome to an adoring public. But in 1516, Hanno got sick and constipated. So to try to cure him, doctors put a bunch of gold up his butt as medicine, which I guess was like a pretty common attempted cure for constipation.

Hank: Like solid gold?

Sam: I looked into the gold part a little bit and I could not figure out what kind of gold they were putting.

Hank: Mmm. It must have been!

Ceri: Yeah, it was phrased as a "gold suppository." So maybe like some powdery stuff with gold, but maybe just a pill of gold.

Hank: Maybe. They could have powdered some gold. I dunno. A suppository, to me, sounds like they just shoved a... you know...

Ceri: Shoved a gold lump.

Sam: Yeah.

Ceri: A gold nugget!

Sam: Anyway, that didn't help. And Hanno died and was buried and sat under Vatican dirt until his skeleton was discovered in 1962.

Hank: You know, my guess is he wasn't getting the—the ideal diet.

Sam: [Laughs] He probably was getting fed a lot of candy and whatever people eat in 1514. Bread? I would imagine a lot of bread.

Hank: Yeah. Probably a bunch of bread and just, like, no fiber.

Sam: Well, anyway. Thanks for your sacrifice, Hanno. Bye!