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Elephants: SUVs of the animal kingdom

With giant white tusks, a long nimble trunk and enormous, floppy ears, elephants are not often confused with other members of the animal kingdom. But according to new research, it's an elephant's likeness to an all-terrain vehicle that really sets the beast apart.

According to a study by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College in London, elephants are the only animal thought to move using a "four-leg-drive" system, in which power is applied independently to each limb, the Associated Free Press reports.

In comparison, all other four-legged animals use "rear-leg-drive," in which the hind legs accelerate and the front limbs brake.

"Surprisingly, elephants use their forelimbs and hindlimbs in similar roles, not dividing these functions among limbs as was previously assumed," the scientists wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study's leader, John Hutchinson, added that the research "provided basic data that will be useful in clinical studies of elephants, such [overcoming] common lameness problems."

The research also may give safari lovers another reason to stand clear of these mammoth creatures.

Currently, the African and Asian elephants are the only two remaining species of what is thought to have been a diverse population in prehistoric times, according to Out to Africa.ADNFCR-2796-ID-19698125-ADNFCR
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