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Wild elephants clock shortest shut-eye recorded for mammals

Average snooze of two hours per night deepens mystery of sleep’s role

2:01pm, March 1, 2017
wild elephants

SLEEP DIARIES  The first study of electronically monitored sleep in two wild elephants (one shown above) finds a record-breaking low average for mammals.

Fitbit-style tracking of two wild African elephants suggests their species could break sleep records for mammals. The elephants get by just fine on about two hours of sleep a day. Much of that shut-eye comes while standing up — the animals sleep lying down only once every three or four days, new data show.

Most of what scientists previously knew about sleeping elephants came from captive animals, says neuroethologist Paul Manger of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. In zoos and enclosures, elephants have been recorded snoozing about three hours to almost seven over a 24-hour period.

Monitoring African elephants in the wild, however, so far reveals more extreme behavior. Data are hard to collect, but two females wearing activity recorders for about a month averaged less sleep than other recorded mammals. Especially intriguing is the elephants’ ability to skip a night’s sleep

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