“Elephants have evolved these amazing organs with an infinite number of degrees of freedom,” says lead author and University of Geneva biologist Michel Milinkovitch. His team traveled to a South African elephant reserve to study how the animals specifically use that freedom. The researchers taped retroreflective markers to two bull elephants’ trunks and put various items in front of them. As the elephants moved the objects around, the researchers filmed them with a semicircle of infrared cameras, capturing how the markers moved in three-dimensional space—similar to the process used for mapping movie actors’ movements to computer-generated characters.
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