A bull African elephant dies after a fight with another bull elephant.

National Geographic documents what happens next to the elephant’s carcass after death.

Day 1

The elephant dies of its injuries.

Day 2 – Mourning a Loss

Other elephants arrive on the scene to mourn the loss of their kin.

They perform the mourning process that includes climbing on the carcass and walking backwards towards the body, often touching it with their hind foot. They also explore the body with their trunks and front feet.

Day 3 – Scavengers Discover the Body

Hyenas arrive and open the belly of the carcass, tearing through the tough elephant hide giving the opportunity for white-backed vultures to feed. Because vultures don’t have strong beaks to tear through the tough skin, they have to wait in line behind the hyenas.

Day 4 – Feeding Continues

Vultures continue to feast on the dead elephant. A leopard comes to investigate but decides to eat elsewhere.

Day 5 – The Remains

The carcass briefly becomes a busy ecosystem.

Apart from animals, there’s a full community of insect decomposers like maggots that chow down on anything the bigger scavengers don’t get to quickly enough.

A carcass site becomes soaked with blood and fluids that are released during decomposition, creating a fertile patch for microbes that release nutrients into the soil.

A Few Days Later

Only bones are left of the elephant.

According to National Geographic, scientists use carcass counts for keeping tabs on elephant population health.

Not only does this elephant’s carcass provide a highly beneficial service to the surrounding ecosystem, it may ultimately help science and elephant conservation.

An Elephant's Role in the Ecosystem

Even after an elephant dies, it is enormously important to the ecosystem.

Posted by National Geographic on Saturday, 15 September 2018

 

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