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Elephants have a greater volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing than all other existing land animals, and extensive studies place elephants in the category of great apes in terms of cognitive abilities for tool use and tool making.They exhibit a wide variety of behaviours, including those associated with grief, learning, allomothering, mimicry, play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, memory, and language.The feet have more nail-like structures than those of African elephants—five on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.On average, males are about 2.75 m (9.0 ft) tall at the shoulder and 4 t (4.4 short tons) in weight, while females are smaller at about 2.4 m (7.9 ft) at the shoulder and 2.7 t (3.0 short tons) in weight.Four basic muscle masses—the radial, the longitudinal and two oblique layers—and the size and attachments points of the tendon masses allow the shortening, extension, bending, and twisting movements accounting for the ability to hold, and manipulate loads of up to 300 kg (660 lb).Muscular and tendinous ability combined with nervous control allows extraordinary strength and agility movements of the trunk, such as sucking and spraying of water or dust and directed air flow blowing.Their wrinkled skin is movable and contains many nerve centers.It is smoother than that of African elephants, and may be depigmented on the trunk, ears, or neck.

Skin colour is usually grey, and may be masked by soil because of dusting and wallowing.The deeper muscles are best seen as numerous distinct fasciculi in a cross-section of the trunk.The trunk is a multipurpose prehensile organ and highly sensitive, innervated by the maxillary division of the trigeminal nerve and by the facial nerve.The acute sense of smell uses both the trunk and Jacobson's organ.Elephants use their trunks for breathing, watering, feeding, touching, dusting, sound production and communication, washing, pinching, grasping, defense and offense.

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