List o’ Ten Interesting Facts About Elephants

List o' Ten Interesting Facts About ElephantsThey descend frommammoths and mastodons. From Hannibal to the modern African ivory hunters, throughout history, the elephant has played an important role in human economies, religion, and culture. The immense size, strength, and stature of this largest living land animal has intrigued people of many cultures for hundreds of years. This list presents some interesting facts about our fine trunked friends.

The African elephant once roamed the entire continent of Africa, and the Asian elephant ranged from Syria to northern China and the islands of Indonesia. These abundant populations have been reduced to groups in scattered areas south of the Sahara and in isolated patches in India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.

10. Elephants Have Hairy Knees

elephant hairelephant hair bracelet

Many people have seen elephant hair bracelets that are made as souvenirs for tourists in Africa, and are amazed at the wire-like hair. It is hard to believe that the wire is actually a piece of hair, but it has to be tough to penetrate the elephant’s skin. But there are only a few spots on an elephant’s body where hair is found – adult elephants are only sparsely haired. As well as the obvious hairs on the tail, hair is present mainly on the forehead, chin and lips, eyelids (eyelashes), knees, around the external ear canal and around the vulva. There is a panniculus carnosus muscle allowing the elephant to move the skin, but no erector pili muscles to pull the hairs erect (as found in most other animals with hair).

9. An Elephant’s Ear Weighs as Much as A Person

Elephant Ears

Up to 110 pounds (50 kg) each. The enormous (6- by 4-foot, 1.8 m by 1.2 m) flaps extend the length of the animal’s head and out almost as far. Heaving them forward, an elephant almost quadruples his frontal area and his threatening presence. His ears not only threaten others but also cool him. By fanning the flaps, he cools his internal blood temperature 9F (5C) if the outside temperature rises above 77F (30C). Blood, jammed in myriad vessels against ear skin, cools. Chilled blood snakes through the immense body, cooling it like a long drink of ice water. If it’s windy, he just holds them open and exposes hot arteries to the cool breeze.

8. The Elephant is the Largest Land Animal

African Elephant

The African savanna, or bush elephant , of sub-Saharan Africa, is the largest living land animal, weighing up to 16,500 lbs (8 and1/4 tons) and standing 10 – 13 ft (3 – 4 m) tall at the shoulder. The average baby African elephant weighs around 581 pounds so about 1/4 ton, and averages 200 pounds birth weight. Of course, being the biggest land animal also means that it can leave a pretty big mess on the land. elephant dump

7. Not All Feet Are the Same

elephant feet and toes

The number of toes on elephants varies with the type of elephant. An Asian elephant has five toes on the front of the feet and and four on the back. The African elephant has only four toes on the front feet and three on the back. Interestingly, it has one more vertebra in the lumbar section of the spine. Interestingly, the elephants foot is formed in such a way that it is essentially walking on tiptoe, with a tough and fatty part of connective tissue for the sole. The reason that elephants can walk so quietly is in part due to the “elastic spongy cushion” on the bottom of the foot smothering any objects beneath itself. This causes most noises (including the cracking of sticks) to be muffled. The toes are buried inside the flesh of the foot.

6. Elephants Have No Front Teeth

elephant molar

There are really no front teeth, or incisors, in an elephant, but two front teeth, the second upper incisors, which grow out as tusks. Elephants have four molars, one on the top and one on the bottom on both sides of the mouth. One molar can weigh about five pounds (2.27 kilograms) and is the size of a brick. Each too, as it wears away, travels forward in the jaw, and finally drops out and the one next behind moves upward and forward to take its place. An elephant can go through six sets of molars in a lifetime.

5. Elephants Do Not Go To Die in Common Ground

Elephant Graveyard

One myth often told in the past is about “elephant graveyards.” The Elephant’s Graveyard is a legendary place where elephants go during the final days of life.The elephants are rumored to be drawn here by a mystical force. Many have claimed to have seen it, but none have managed to find it – twice. Scientists ruled out the existence of the graveyards long ago, concluding that the myth arose from the discovery of collections of the remains of animals that had suffered a similar fate, whether at the hands of poachers, becoming trapped or as a result of a natural disaster.When elephants are ready to die, as most animals will do, they wander off from the herd to a private place and go.

4. Elephants Really Do Remember

elephant never forgets

This is due to the size of the elephant’s brain. Like with humans, generally the bigger the brain, the better the cognitive powers and memory. At 11 pounds, the elephant has a brain that is larger than any other animal in the world. Elephants are said to be have to mentally map their environment, which in terms of size could be compared to certain small states, such as Rhode Island. Also, elephants who were once together, then separated for sometimes decades, will recognize each other upon reintroduction, often with great emotion.

3. Elephants Can Get TB

elephant gas mask

Elephants are known to have a type of tuberculosis which can be transferred to humans. This is why those that work closely with them have to get a vaccination to prevent it. Though found in captive elephants, TB has not yet been reported in wild elephants. However, the potential for TB transmission is present whenever animals or humans intermingle. Elephants are endangered, especially Asian elephants which are far fewer in number than African elephants. TB has been diagnosed in more frequently in Asian elephants although African elephants are susceptible. A 2006 study ((Rothschild) identified tuberculous lesions in 59 of 113 mastodon (Mammut americanum) skeletons (52%) and implicated TB in the mastodons extinction. This startling discovery is a warning for us to act now to protect our living elephant and other susceptible species.

2. Elephant Herds Are Not Manly

African elephant herd

It is well known that elephants live are social animals, with a well developed system of caring for their young and living in herds. However, only grown up ladies and their babies live in the herds. Herd environments are particularly important for baby elephants, since they are blind at birth and rely upon their trunks and their mothers to help them. The daddy elephants leave the herd when they are 12 years old.

1. Female Elephants Have A Long Biological Clock

baby elephant in womb

Baby elephant in the womb.

Females can give birth anytime from about age 12 until she dies at about age 60. She usually spaces her calving 4 years apart until age 45. After that, the interval gradually lengthens to 5 years by age 52 and to 6 years by age 60. It takes a female 22 months from conception to have a baby. This is longer than any other animal in the world.

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1 Response to "List o’ Ten Interesting Facts About Elephants":

  1. Digger September 26, 2010 at 09:54

    This is a fantastic post, because it gives real information and great pictures without going into glorification of animal “tricks”. Thanks for the info and for not going down the path of what many people consider to be animal cruelty – and that is an amazing pic of the elephant in the womb.