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Mythbusters: Are Elephants Afraid of Mice?

(Daily Motion link)

You’ve seen Dumbo, and you’ve heard the myth about elephants being afraid of mice, haven’t you? Mythbusters takes a look at what happens when an elephant encounters a mouse. No animals were harmed in this experiment. -via YesButNoButYes

I suppose I might be a bit concerned if some dog crap on the sidewalk started to move by itself. Too bad they didn't try using a moving lump of dung without the mouse.
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Oooh Neatorama commentors are some of the smartest out there, even smarter than the Mythbusters. Too bad they spend more time commenting on other peoples failings than watching TV, otherwise they'd know that they did move the dung without the mouse, and the elephants didn't notice.

Not that the Mythbusters do everything right, but this time I think there's another explanation.
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at first i thought it was just the dung cap flipping over, but i really think it did notice the mouse. i think elephants will naturally take caution to small animals in feat that it will harm them (such as scorpion stings)

or, they may have a natural passion for not killing other animals that would never be able to harm them?
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Michael, those are just glacier glasses that Jamie is wearing (still cool none the less!)

Here's a few

I'm not associated with that store, they just had a few.
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I'm thinking it wasn't so much the presence of a mouse, as the fact that the dung rolled away and suddenly these pachyderms were confronted with an unnaturally-colored (albino) critter that stank of human. It didn't help that they were sitting right there, a few dozen feet from the elephants, with cameras trained upon them. They were probably already pretty edgy at that point!

Try it with a wild-type mouse and no human odor while setting the test site MUCH further in the distance, and I doubt the results would have been the same!

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I agree with TwoDragons, although I think there is some truth to elephants being 'aware' of mice (I wouldn't wnat a mouse running up my schnoz either.) I wonder if it was not the contrast of white mouse on dark dirt that got the elephants attention. I wonder if the same would happen if a mouse ran infornt of the walking elephant?
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Retrokatze, I think that Snopes article says it all.

The sudden unexplained movement and the mouse's white fur contrasting the brown dirt would simply have startled the elephant enough to make it wary.

Not to mention that the "monofilament" (fishing wire) was clearly visible and seemed to be cutting across the track.

The Mythbusters don't know the meaning of the phrase "scientific method". All of their experiments have so many variables that aren't accounted for that almost all of their conclusions are questionable at best.
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This reminds me of how they used to counter war elephants. They found that squealing pigs really freaked elephants out, so they would set pigs on fire and have them run around. Disgusting but hey, really interesting and it worked apparently.
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wow! haha amazing
and as for twodragons theory, the albino mouse might have freaked them out, but i dont believe they have good eyesight, making it probably not matter too much
and also, as you can see those elephants are used to humans, probably in a preserve because at the end they just walked over to the mythbusters and crew, and let them pet them.. making the smell of humans obviously not bother them
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I think the contrast makes them wary. There would be genetic fitness in staying away from high contrast objects such as poisonous flowers/fruits/snakes/insects. They should have tried different colored mice.
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This was amazing! I wonder if Elephants are naturally afraid of small animals like mice because they can run up their nose and cause serious problems. (ok this sounds really dumb when I re-read this, but makes some sense to me)
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I think that, while they could have been more thorough in their testing, they did a fine job.

I know of stranger things that happen in nature and have perfectly logical explanations that just aren't apparent right off.

I doubt it has anything to do with the contrast in colors...elephant's don't have very strong eye sight and from what I remember, most of it is centered around movement, not color. Not to say that using a brown mouse once would have been a bad idea.

Also, the fishing wire was not the problem. In the full episode, the elephant walks right through it in the control experiment.

These elephants are not wild, they are in of the reasons they used these were that they were not trained like circus elephants but they were also not dangerous, like wild elephants. The scent of humans shouldn't have played that great a role since they have keepers in their habitat often....their food is from people.
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maybe it was the moving dung?


i would be scared "shitless" it that would happen,no pun intended
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I think the Mythbuster's should test Reechard's comment and set some pigs on fire around the elephants, for purely scientific reasons of course. It's not as if I would find any entertainment value in such a spectacle.

In any event, these guys are my heroes.
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Justin (#17) - you made my day... "aaahhh! A mouse! Help! Don't let it get up my nose.... gaaaah!"

For those who saw the whole episode, did they try the same experiment with other critters?
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No they didn't try it with other critters. And for all of you who says it was probably because of the dung moving I have to repeat what has already been said: They did a test with just the dung and the elephant did not react. So much for that theory. They did it again with the mouse however and the elephant reacted the same again, so it's obvious the elephant was reacting to the mouse and not the dung.

As to why, that's anyone's guess. They did not however confirm the myth that elephants are afraid of mice, they simply called it plausible, which is not stretching it too far I think, no matter of how unscientific it may be.
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My guess is that they did not test other animals because they were so sure that the myth would be busted. Adam mentions the fact that when he woke up that morning he was CERTAIN that it was not possible.

I can imagine that they will need to revisit this.

Consulting someone who specializes in Animal Behavior would be a good idea, too.
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...and also, the myth isn't "Elephants are afraid of rabbits/cats/shrimp/beetles/etc", though they could indeed have tested other kinds of mice, as well as plastic mice, and other kinds of deployment.
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Please note... The mythbusters said that the myth was PLAUSIBLE. They did not say that it was confirmed. So please, cut them some slack.
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MythBusters did a good job. IMO elephants dont afraid by mice but become disturbed by them. I dont afraid from bugs, I dont want them near me :)
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Maybe the Aesop tale was about the Mouse and the Elephant. It seemed to me the Elephant was showing the mouse a courtesy by making sure Algernon was not under foot. Then again I may just be full of it.

Love the show even if the two guys are Doofs. The babe makes up for it with pure class.
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humm really those mythbusters are doing a good job breaking myth but I still hear again n again the same old myths like duck quack don't eco which was already proved wrong.
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If you believe it is simply because elephants are being cautious or courteous because it is a small animal it is defiantly not the case. There have studies and reports of elephants that are actually quite cruel to small animals. They have been know to draw in birds with small pieces of food and then crush them with their massive feet when they got close.
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To the guy who said it was the moving pile of crap...I just watched it on discovery and they do try it without the mouse...the elephant looks down but doesnt hesitate at all. However with the mouse it hesitated and backed off right away.
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How many "snow white mice" live in nature? I suspect that this fact alone is enough to cause most animals to react. Also, if you noticed, that in the second pass with the mouse, the elephant didn't react until the mouse began to move.

So I see two things that would need to be done to rectify the faulty experiment.

1. Replace white mouse with a natural colored (brown) mouse.

2. Use something small (mouse-sized) and white with a remote control to see how the elephants react to that.

I believe that the elephants would not react to a brown mouse & I believe they would react to anything that was not something naturally occurring in nature.
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