Saturday, January 14, 2012

Can Animals Cry?

The Question:

Can animals cry?

The Background:

We did some looking into this question and found one interesting answer.  Turns out that people have been reporting salt water tears out of elephants for a long time.  A lot of salt water mammals and reptiles produce tears as a way of balancing out the salt in their bodies. (hence the phrase "crocodile tears")
The more emotional question, can elephants cry tears in response to emotional stress, produced a startling result.  We here that the Foundation for Investigation of Obscure Question Phenomena (FIOQP) got to looking at some nature videos in our children's possession and learned that elephants have an odd gland on the side of their heads called the Temporal Gland.  Showing here:

The Temporal gland produces a wide variety of smells, all of them rather rank apparently, for a wide variety of purposes.  The males rub the secretion on trees to mark territory for example.  One of the use is to signal emotional upset.  When a herd matriarch has a wounded herdmate, she may emit fluid from this gland all day, the same with a mother who has lost her child.

So What's the Answer?

While the court is still out on whether elephant produce salt water tears out of there eyes, there can be no doubt that they do produce fluid out of their temporal glands when upset, so yes, elephants do cry.

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