BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study performed at the University of Witswatersrand in South Africa electronically monitored sleep in two elephants to see how many hours of rest they spend per night. Results show what is probably the lowest average sleeping time among mammals.
Statistics show that giraffes usually spend four hours of sleep in the wild, donkeys spend three and a half hours, while horses only get to sleep for three hours. Even sloths, which are well-known to sleep for up to 16 hours in captivity, spend only ten hours sleeping in the wilderness.
Elephants are on the bottom of the list. The studies show that they break the record of the fewest hours spent sleeping, with two hours or even less per night. Now you may wonder, why do animals spend such few time sleeping and why is it a difference between captivity and their natural habitat?
Scientists suggest that it might be some kind of a survival instinct. Paul Manger, the lead author of the study, explains that the animals’ priorities are eating, reproducing, and making sure that they do not get eaten. When they sleep, these priorities are no longer taken care of, so this is why they reduce their resting time.
This is the first study that focuses on sleep patterns of elephants in the wilderness. In captivity, elephants usually doze off between three and seven hours a day, but they can afford these extra hours of sleep, so to say. In captivity, they receive all the food they need and are safe from predators.
To see how elephants sleep in the wild, the researchers went to Chobe National Park in Botswana. They inserted some tracking devices inside the trunks of two females and monitored their sleep patterns for 35 days. They were considered to be asleep if their trunks did not move for more than five minutes.
The researchers noticed that the 30-year-old elephant slept for 2.3 hours on average, while the 37-year-old one slept only for 1.8 hours on average. They never slept in the same place twice, and even went on for two or three days without sleep. They usually slept while standing and lie down once every three or four days.
Unfortunately, the study looked only at two elephants, so the researchers need a more extensive study to establish if this sleep pattern is typical of all elephants. Still, their findings are interesting and challenge the theories that state sleep is vital for the brain.
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