Elephants are excellent swimmers! Although they are very big, elephants are good swimmers. Elephants use their legs as paddles while the swim. When swimming elephants have their entire head and body under water. They use their trunk like a snorkel so they can breath! They even like to dive and baby elephants play in the water just for fun. Baby elephants even suck up water in their trunks to spray at others and like mud baths, too. Baby elephants cannot swim until they are about four to five months old.
Elephants can swim long distances without getting tired. If they get tired they just stop and rest. For being such large animals, they are very buoyant and will not drown if they stop swimming for a while. Both African and Asian elephants are very good swimmers. In some places in India elephant are even used to take people and supplies from island to island! Sometimes islands are miles apart, but the elephants don't seem to mind!
Elephants have been swimming for a long time! Scientists think that these elephant ancestors lived near and in water. In fact their ability to swim may have played a roll in the migration of elephants. Some things that scientists have found that suggest elephant ancestors were comfortable in the water is the fact that their ears close when they submerge. Human ears don't close, that is why we get water in our ears, but elephants have a little muscle that closes off their ear canal. Elephant blood pressure also suggests that they were once water dwelling animals. Their blood pressure is higher than it should be. Elephant DNA also shows that elephants are genetically similar to animals that are aquatic. Elephant embryos also suggest that elephants are adapted to life in water. Their closest living relatives are manatees. Elephant embryos also favor an aquatic past. When developing elephant embryo lungs have an elastic tissue that prevents pressure under water from causing damage.