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Elephants are truly one of the worlds greatest animals. Majestic, incredibly powerful, they already hold the title for the largest, living land animal. But before we get into the nitty gritty detail of elephants, lets check out a few amazing elephant facts.
1. Elephants are the largest living land animals on Earth today.
2. The elephant's gestation period is 22 months, the longest of any land animal.
3. At birth, an elephant calf typically weighs 105 kilograms (230 lb).
4. They typically live for 50 to 70 years, but the oldest recorded elephant lived for 82 years.
5. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 24,000 lb (11,000 kg), with a shoulder height of 3.96 metres (13.0 ft), a metre (yard) taller than the average male African elephant.
6. The smallest elephants, about the size of a calf or a large pig, were a prehistoric species that lived on the island of Crete during the Pleistocene epoch.
7. Elephants are a symbol of wisdom in Asian cultures and are famed for their memory and intelligence, where their intelligence level is thought to be equal to that of dolphinsand primates.
8. Aristotle once said the elephant was '...the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind...'.
9. The word 'elephant' has its origins in the Greek ἐλέφας, meaning ivory or elephant.
However, you may be surprised to hear that there are more than just one species of elephant. In fact there are four! The African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, the Asian elephant - also known as the Indian elephant - and thanks to DNA testing, the Borneo pygmy elephant. All other species and genera of Elephantidae are now long extinct since the last ice age although some dwarf forms of mammoth are believed to have survived as late as 2,000 BC.
Be that is it may, the two most widely known species of elephant are the Asian and African elephants, but just what are the differences between them?
Elephas maximus - Asian elephants, and Loxadonta africana - African elephants. These two are further divided into different subspecies.
The African elephant is significantly larger with adult bulls growing up to 4m in height tall whereas the biggest Asian males reach no more than 3.5m.
Adult African elephants weigh between 4,000-7,500 kg. Asian elephants are less at 3000-6,000 kg.
African elephants have a fuller more rounded head. The top of the head is a single dome whereas Asian elephants have a twin domed head with an indent in the middle. The lower lips of the two species also differ being long and tapered in Asian elephants and short and round in African elephants.
Size of the Ears
It is said that you can tell where an elephant comes from by looking at the size of his ears. African ears are like a map of Africa and Asian ears smaller like a map of India. African ears are much bigger and reach up and over the neck. The ears of an Asian elephant are much smaller and do not reach up and over the neck..
The skin of an African elephant is much more wrinkled
In general African elephants have more ribs than the Asian though the number of ribs can varys in individual animals. African elephants have up to 21 pairs while Asian elephants can have up to 20.
All African elephants, male and female have tusks, whereas only some male Asian elephants have tusks. Africans generally have the bigger tusks. About 50% of female Asian elephants and a small percentage of males have small tusk like teeth known as tushes.
The lamella profile along the top of the molar teeth of the two species is different with the ridges on Asian’s teeth being more tightly compressed.
The African elephant’s trunk is visibly more heavily ringed and is not as hard as the Asian trunk.
The trunk tip is a major difference between the species. The African trunk has two distinct fingers which it uses to pick up and manipulate objects. The Asian elephant has only one ‘finger’. The Asian compensates for this by holding objects against the underside of the trunk and appears not to suffer from any lack of maneuverability.
Toenails in the two different species of African elephants vary. As they do between the African and Asian elephants.
The African forest elephant has 5 nails on front feet and 4 on the back while the African bush elephant has 4 nails on front feet and 3 on the back. The Asian elephant has 5 nails on front feet, 4 on the back and on the very rare occation 5!
Although both species of elephant eat a wide variety of plant matter, in general term the Asian elephant’s diet is made up of a greater proportion of grass while the African elephants diet is made up of a greater proportion of leaves.
Of course, besides the differences there are many similarities which we will now discover.
The mating season is short and females are only able to conceive for a few days each year. To begin with, the femaile elephant will detach herself from the herd when she comes into season. The scent of the female (cow) elephant in heat (or estrus) attracts the male and she also uses audible signals to attract the male. As the female elephant is both smaller and therefore faster than the male elephant, she can usually outrun the male. This means that she does not have to mate with every male that approaches her.
The male initiates the courtship and the female will ignore him for several minutes. He then stops and starts again. Elephants display a range of affectionate interactions, such as nuzzling, trunk intertwining, and placing their trunks in each other's mouths.
The female elephant is not passive in the ritual and uses the same techniques as the male.
African as well as Asiatic males will engage in same-sex bonding and mounting. The encounters are analogous to heterosexual bouts, one male often extending his trunk along the other's back and pushing forward with his tusks to signify his intention to mount. Unlike heterosexual relations, which are always of a fleeting nature, those between males result in a "companionship", consisting of an older individual and one or two younger, attendant males. Same-sex relations are common and frequent in both sexes, with Asiatic elephants in captivity devoting roughly 46% of sexual encounters to same-sex activity.
Elephant Family Groups
Female elephant social life revolves around breeding and raising of the calves. A female will usually be ready to breed around the age of thirteen, when she comes into estrus, a short phase of receptiveness lasting a couple of days, for the first time. Females announce their estrus with smell signals and special calls.
As a general rule, females elephants prefer bigger, stronger, and, most importantly, older males. Such a reproductive strategy tends to increase their offspring's chances of survival.
After a twenty-two-month pregnancy, the mother gives birth to a calf that weighs about 115 kg (250 lb) and stands over 75 cm (2.5 ft) tall. Elephants have a very long development. As is common with more intelligent species, they are born with fewer survival instincts than many other animals. Instead, they rely on their elders to teach them what they need to know. Today, however, the pressures humans have put on the wild elephant populations, from poaching to habitat destruction, mean that the elderly often die at a younger age, leaving fewer teachers for the young. The consequences of this for the next generation are not known.
Elephants within a herd are usually related, and all members of the tightly-knit female group participate in the care and protection of the young. After the initial excitement, the mother will usually select several full-time baby-sitters, or "allomothers", from her group. An elephant is considered an allomother when she is not able to have her own calf. The more allomothers, the better the calf's chances of survival. A benefit of being an allomother is that she can gain experience or receive assistance when caring for her own calf. According to Cynthia Moss, a well known researcher, these allomothers will help in all aspects of raising the calf. They walk with the young as the herd travels, helping the calves along if they fall or get stuck in the mud. The more allomothers a calf has, the more free time its mother has to feed herself. Providing a calf with nutritious milk means the mother has to eat more nutritious food herself.
Most of us are familiar with the calls of an elephant. They range from the familiar trumpet call (a favourite of the old Tarzan films) to a low-frequency rumble that sounds – at least to our human ears - something akin to a deep growl.
These forms of communication are an essential part of their social behaviour and this enables a herd to keep track of relatives, defend territories and alert other elephants to danger.
It has now been discovered that elephants can produce an infrasonic sound from 1- 20Hz – a range that is inaudible to humans - and these sounds can travel over huge distances. They can also produce what is known as a ‘seismic’ signal which is like mini earthquake allowing elephants to position each other in relation to their own location.
Using specially-developed acoustic software, researchers at San Diego Zoo in the US have tried to uncover the secret language of the elephant by deciphering these sounds and have come up with a fascinating new insight into the workings of the herd.
Early results have shown that pregnant females - in the last few days of their gestation period – begin to manipulate the low frequency range of their calls. This auditory communication alerts the rest of the herd of the imminent birth, and at the appropriate time they react by forming a barrier around the mother to protect her and the newly born calf from potential predators at this critical time.
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elephants in africa, baby elephants, elephant facts, baby elephant pictures, differences between asian and african elephants,
Photo care of http://www.maxwaugh.com/tanzania07/elephant2.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Elephant_mating_ritual.jpg
Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant
Based on an article by http://www.eleaid.com/index.php?page=differencesbetweenafricanandasianelephants
Photos care of http://www.ispyanimals.com/2011/05/strange-eye.html and http://fishintreee.blogspot.com/2010/07/elephant-peach.html and