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Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living
species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanis ...

species
are currently recognised: the
African bush elephant The African bush elephant (''Loxodonta africana''), also known as the African savanna elephant, is the largest living terrestrial animal Terrestrial animals are animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organ ...

African bush elephant
, the
African forest elephant The African forest elephant (''Loxodonta cyclotis'') is one of the two living African elephant species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a uni ...

African forest elephant
, and the
Asian elephant
Asian elephant
. They are an informal grouping within the
proboscidean The Proboscidea (, from the Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximat ...
family In human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same Politics, ...
Elephantidae The Elephantidae are a family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain t ...
. Elephantidae is the only surviving family of proboscideans; extinct members include the
mastodon A mastodon ( Greek: μαστός "breast" and ὀδούς, "tooth") is any proboscidean belonging to the extinct genus ''Mammut'' (family Mammutidae) that inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene The Miocene ( ) is the first ...

mastodon
s. Elephantidae also contains several extinct groups, including the
mammoth A mammoth is any species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organi ...

mammoth
s and straight-tusked elephants.
African elephant The African elephant (''Loxodonta'') is a Genus (biology), genus comprising two living elephant species, the African bush elephant (''L. africana'') and the smaller African forest elephant (''L. cyclotis''). Both are social herbivores with grey ...

African elephant
s have larger ears and concave backs, whereas Asian elephants have smaller ears, and convex or level backs. The distinctive features of all elephants include a long
proboscis Convolvulus hawk-moth (''Agrius convolvuli'') feeding with extended proboscis">Agrius_convolvuli.html" ;"title="Convolvulus hawk-moth (''Agrius convolvuli">Convolvulus hawk-moth (''Agrius convolvuli'') feeding with extended proboscis A probosci ...

proboscis
called a trunk, tusks, large ear flaps, massive legs, and tough but sensitive skin. The trunk is used for breathing, bringing food and water to the mouth, and grasping objects. Tusks, which are derived from the incisor teeth, serve both as weapons and as tools for moving objects and digging. The large ear flaps assist in maintaining a constant body temperature as well as in communication. The pillar-like legs carry their great weight. Elephants are scattered throughout
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all list of sovereign states and dependent territories in ...

sub-Saharan Africa
,
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The region consists of the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lan ...

South Asia
, and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions that are south of China, south-east of the Indian sub ...

Southeast Asia
and are found in different habitats, including
savanna A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the '' plurale tantum'' woods), a low-density forest A forest is an ...

savanna
hs, forests, deserts, and
marsh A marsh is a wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevailin ...

marsh
es. They are
herbivorous File:Land_Snail_radula_tracks.jpg#, 250px, Tracks made by terrestrial gastropods with their radulas, scraping green algae from a surface inside a greenhouse A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant mater ...

herbivorous
, and they stay near water when it is accessible. They are considered to be keystone species, due to their impact on their environments. Elephants have a
fission–fusion societyIn ethology, a fission–fusion society is one in which the size and composition of the social group change as time passes and animals move throughout the environment; animals merge into a group (fusion)—e.g. sleeping in one place—or split (fissi ...
, in which multiple family groups come together to socialise. Females (cows) tend to live in family groups, which can consist of one female with her calves or several related females with offspring. The groups, which do not include bulls, are usually led by the oldest cow, known as the
matriarch Matriarchy is a social system in which females (most notably in mammals) hold the primary power positions in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. While those definitions apply in general E ...
. Males (bulls) leave their family groups when they reach puberty and may live alone or with other males. Adult bulls mostly interact with family groups when looking for a mate. They enter a state of increased
testosterone Testosterone is the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid Anabolic steroids, also known more properly as anabolic–androgenic steroids (AAS), are steroidal androgens that include natural androgens like testosterone (medication), testoste ...
and aggression known as
musth Musth or must (; ur, مست, from Persian, ) is a periodic condition in bull (male) elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can b ...

musth
, which helps them gain dominance over other males as well as reproductive success. Calves are the centre of attention in their family groups and rely on their mothers for as long as three years. Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild. They
communicate Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing meaning among entities or groups through the use of sufficiently mutually understood sign A sign is an object, quality, event, or entity whose pre ...
by touch, sight, smell, and sound; elephants use
infrasound Infrasound, sometimes referred to as low-frequency sound, describes sound waves with a frequency below the lower limit of audibility (generally 20 Hz). Hearing becomes gradually less sensitive as frequency decreases, so for humans to perceiv ...
, and
seismic communication Seismic or vibrational communication is a process of conveying information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of its ...
over long distances. Elephant intelligence has been compared with that of
primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutheria Eutheria (; from Greek , 'good, right' and , 'beast'; ) is the clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "branch"), also known as a monophyletic group or natural gro ...

primate
s and
cetacea Cetaceans (from la, Cetus (mythology), cetus, lit=whale, from grc, κῆτος, translit=Cetus (mythology), kētos, lit = huge fish, sea monster) are aquatic mammals constituting the infraorder Cetacea (). Key characteristics are their fully aq ...
ns. They appear to have
self-awareness In philosophy of self The philosophy of self is the study of the many conditions of identity that make one subject of experience Experience is the process through which conscious organisms Perception, perceive the world around them. Experi ...
, and appear to show
empathy Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional st ...

empathy
for dying and dead family members. African bush elephants and Asian elephants are listed as
endangered An endangered species is a species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactio ...
and African forest elephants as critically endangered by the
International Union for Conservation of Nature The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; officially International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural ...
(IUCN). One of the biggest threats to elephant populations is the
ivory trade The ivory trade is the commercial, often illegal trade in the ivory tusks of the hippopotamus, walrus, narwhal, mammoth, and most commonly, African elephant, African and Asian elephants. Ivory has been traded for hundreds of years by people in ...

ivory trade
, as the animals are poached for their ivory tusks. Other threats to wild elephants include
habitat destructionHabitat destruction (also termed habitat loss and habitat reduction) is the process by which a natural habitat In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relatio ...
and conflicts with local people. Elephants are used as
working animal A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secu ...
s in Asia. In the past, they were used in war; today, they are often controversially put on display in zoos, or exploited for entertainment in
circus A circus is a company of performers who put on diverse entertainment shows that may include clowns, acrobatics, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, dancers, hooping, hoopers, tightrope walkers, juggling, jugglers, magic (illusi ...
es. Elephants are highly recognisable and have been featured in art, folklore, religion, literature, and
popular culture Popular culture (also called mass culture or pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of the cultural practice, practices, beliefs, and cultural objects, objects that are dominant or prevalent in a society at a given ...
.


Etymology

The word "elephant" is based on the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...

Latin
''elephas'' (
genitive In grammar, the genitive case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is the grammatical case that marks a word, usually a noun, as modifying another word, also usually a noun—thus indicating an attributive noun, attributive relationship ...
''elephantis'') ("elephant"), which is the
Latinised Latinisation or Latinization can refer to: * Latinisation of names, the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style * Latinisation in the Soviet Union, the campaign in the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s to replace traditional writing sy ...
form of the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
ἐλέφας (''elephas'') (genitive ἐλέφαντος (''elephantos''), probably from a non-
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
language, likely
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...
. It is attested in
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of la ...
as ''e-re-pa'' (genitive ''e-re-pa-to'') in
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ...
syllabic script. As in Mycenaean Greek,
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was the presumed author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The ''Iliad'' is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year s ...

Homer
used the Greek word to mean
ivory Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusk Tusks are elongated, continuously growing front teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to Masticat ...
, but after the time of
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It ...
, it also referred to the animal. The word "elephant" appears in
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following ...
as ''olyfaunt'' (c.1300) and was borrowed from
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
''oliphant'' (12th century).


Taxonomy and phylogeny

Elephants belong to the family
Elephantidae The Elephantidae are a family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain t ...
, the sole remaining family within the order
Proboscidea The Proboscidea (, from the Greek and the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. ...

Proboscidea
which belongs to the superorder
Afrotheria Afrotheria ( from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
. Their closest
extant Extant is the opposite of the word extinct. It may refer to: * Extant hereditary titles * Extant literature, surviving literature, such as ''Beowulf'', the oldest extant manuscript written in English * Extant taxon, a taxon which is not extinct, s ...
relatives are the
sirenia The Sirenia (), commonly referred to as sea-cows or sirenians, are an order (biology), order of fully aquatic, herbivorous mammals that inhabit swamps, rivers, estuaries, marine wetlands, and coastal marine waters. The Sirenia currently comprise ...

sirenia
ns (
dugong The dugong (; ''Dugong dugon'') is a medium-sized marine mammal. It is one of four living species of the order Sirenia, which also includes three species of manatees. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongida ...

dugong
s and
manatee Manatees (family (biology), family Trichechidae, genus ''Trichechus'') are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivory, herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. There are three accepted living species of Trichechidae, representing thre ...

manatee
s) and the
hyrax Hyraxes (from grc, ὕραξ, translit=hýrax, "shrew Shrews ( family Soricidae) are small mole-like mammals Mammals (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Ind ...

hyrax
es, with which they share the
clade A clade (), also known as a monophyletic group or natural group, is a group of organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell t ...
Paenungulata Paenungulata (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...

Paenungulata
within the superorder
Afrotheria Afrotheria ( from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
. Elephants and sirenians are further grouped in the clade
Tethytheria Tethytheria is a clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "branch"), also known as a monophyletic group or natural group, is a group of organisms that are monophyly, monophyletic—that is, composed of a common ancestor and all its lineage (e ...
. Three species of elephants are recognised; the
African bush elephant The African bush elephant (''Loxodonta africana''), also known as the African savanna elephant, is the largest living terrestrial animal Terrestrial animals are animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organ ...

African bush elephant
('' Loxodonta africana'') and
forest elephant The African forest elephant (''Loxodonta cyclotis'') is one of the two living African elephant species. It is native to humid forests in West Africa and the Congo Basin. It is the smallest of the three living elephant species, reaching a shoulder ...

forest elephant
(''Loxodonta cyclotis'') of
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all list of sovereign states and dependent territories in ...

sub-Saharan Africa
, and the (''
Elephas ''Elephas'' is one of two surviving genera in the family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose ...
maximus'') of
South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

South
and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions that are south of China, south-east of the Indian sub ...

Southeast Asia
. African elephants have larger ears, a concave back, more wrinkled skin, a sloping abdomen, and two finger-like extensions at the tip of the trunk. Asian elephants have smaller ears, a convex or level back, smoother skin, a horizontal abdomen that occasionally sags in the middle and one extension at the tip of the trunk. The looped ridges on the
molars The molars or molar teeth are large, flat teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to Mastication, break down food. Some animals, particularly carniv ...
are narrower in the Asian elephant while those of the African are more diamond-shaped. The Asian elephant also has
dorsal Dorsal (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repu ...
bumps on its head and some patches of
depigmentation Depigmentation is the lightening of the skin or loss of pigment. Depigmentation of the skin can be caused by a number of local and systemic conditions. The pigment loss can be partial (injury to the skin) or complete (caused by vitiligo). It can be ...
on its skin.Shoshani, pp. 38–41. Among African elephants, forest elephants have smaller and more rounded ears and thinner and straighter tusks than bush elephants and are limited in range to the forested areas of
western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...

western
and
Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the African continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded ...

Central Africa
. Both were traditionally considered a single species, ''Loxodonta africana'', but molecular studies have affirmed their status as separate species. In 2017, DNA sequence analysis showed that ''L. cyclotis'' is more closely related to the extinct '' Palaeoloxodon antiquus'', than it is to ''L. africana,'' possibly undermining the genus ''Loxodonta'' as a whole.


Evolution and extinct relatives

Over 180 extinct members and three major evolutionary radiations of the order Proboscidea have been recorded. The earliest proboscids, the African ''
Eritherium ''Eritherium'' is an extinct genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may als ...
'' and ''
Phosphatherium ''Phosphatherium escuillei'' is a basal proboscidean that lived from the Late Paleocene to the early stages of the Ypresian age until the early Thanetian some 56 million years ago in North Africa. Research has suggested that ''Phosphatherium'' exis ...
'' of the late
Paleocene The Paleocene, ( ) or Palaeocene, is a geological epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 66 to 56 mya (unit), million years ago (mya). It is the first epoch of the Paleogene Period (geology), Period in the modern Cenozoic Era (geology), Era ...
, heralded the first radiation. The
Eocene The Eocene ( ) Epoch is a geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the ...
included ''
Numidotherium ''Numidotherium'' ("Numidia beast") is an extinct genus of early proboscideans, discovered in 1984, that lived during the middle Eocene of North Africa some 46 million years ago. It was about 90-100 cm tall at the shoulder and weighed about 250-3 ...
'', ''
Moeritherium ''Moeritherium'' ("the beast from Lake Moeris Image:Moeris.gif, Survey of the Moeris Basin from the late nineteenth century Lake Moeris ( grc, Μοῖρις, genitive Μοίριδος) is an ancient lake in the northwest of the Faiyum Oasis, sou ...

Moeritherium
,'' and '' Barytherium'' from Africa. These animals were relatively small and aquatic. Later on, genera such as ''
Phiomia ''Phiomia'' is an extinct genus of basal proboscid that lived in what is now Northern Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square&nb ...
'' and '' Palaeomastodon'' arose; the latter likely inhabited forests and open woodlands. Proboscidean diversity declined during the Oligocene. One notable species of this epoch was ''
Eritreum ''Eritreum melakeghebrekristosi'' is an extinct species of proboscidean mammal, which lived in Northeast Africa during the late Oligocene some 27 million years ago, and is considered to be the missing link between modern elephants and their ancest ...
melakeghebrekristosi'' of the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fro ...

Horn of Africa
, which may have been an ancestor to several later species. The beginning of the
Miocene The Miocene ( ) is the first Epoch (geology), geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about (Ma). The Miocene was named by Scottish author Charles Lyell; its name comes from the Greek words (', "less") and (', "new") and means "le ...
saw the second diversification, with the appearance of the deinotheres and the mammutids. The former were related to ''Barytherium'' and lived in Africa and Eurasia,Sukumar, pp. 16–19. while the latter may have descended from ''Eritreum'' and spread to North America. The second radiation was represented by the emergence of the
gomphothere Gomphotheres are any members of the diverse, extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system th ...
s in the Miocene, which likely evolved from ''Eritreum'' and originated in Africa, spreading to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Members of this group included ''
Gomphotherium ''Gomphotherium'' (; "welded beast") is an extinct genus of proboscids from the Neogene The Neogene ( ) (informally Upper Tertiary or Late Tertiary) is a geologic period and system that spans 20.45 million years from the end of the Paleoge ...

Gomphotherium
'' and ''
Platybelodon ''Platybelodon'' ("flat-spear tusk") was a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The ...

Platybelodon
''. The third radiation started in the late Miocene and led to the arrival of the elephantids, which descended from, and slowly replaced, the gomphotheres. The African ''
Primelephas ''Primelephas'' is a genus of Elephantinae that existed during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs. The name of the genus suggests 'first elephant'. These primitive elephantids are thought to be the common ancestor of ''Mammuthus'', the mammoths, ...

Primelephas
gomphotheroides'' gave rise to ''Loxodonta'', ''Mammuthus,'' and ''Elephas''. ''Loxodonta'' branched off earliest around the Miocene and
Pliocene The Pliocene ( ; also Pleiocene) epoch (geology), Epoch is the epoch in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58stegodontids, another proboscidean group descended from gomphotheres, spread throughout Asia, including the Indian subcontinent, China, southeast Asia, and Japan. Mammutids continued to evolve into new species, such as the
American mastodon American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...

American mastodon
. At the beginning of the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological Epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the earth’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Before a change finally c ...
, elephantids experienced a high rate of
speciation Speciation is the evolution Evolution is change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the Gene expression, expressions of genes that are ...

speciation
. The Pleistocene also saw the arrival of ''
Palaeoloxodon namadicus ''Palaeoloxodon namadicus'' or the Asian straight-tusked elephant, was a species of prehistoric elephant that ranged throughout Pleistocene Asia, from India (where it was first discovered) to Japan. Some authorities regard it to be a subspecies o ...
'', the largest terrestrial mammal of all time. ''
Loxodonta atlantica ''Loxodonta atlantica'' is an Extinction, extinct species of elephant in the genus ''Loxodonta'', from Africa. It was larger than the modern African elephant, with more progressive dentition. It includes Pleistocene fossils from Tighenif, Ternif ...
'' became the most common species in northern and southern Africa but was replaced by ''Elephas iolensis'' later in the Pleistocene. Only when ''Elephas'' disappeared from Africa did ''Loxodonta'' become dominant once again, this time in the form of the modern species. ''Elephas'' diversified into new species in Asia, such as ''E. hysudricus'' and ''E. platycephus''; the latter the likely ancestor of the modern Asian elephant.Sukumar, p. 44. ''Mammuthus'' evolved into several species, including the well-known .Sukumar, pp. 28–31. Interbreeding appears to have been common among elephantid species, which in some cases led to species with three ancestral genetic components, such as the ''Palaeoloxodon antiquus''. In the
Late Pleistocene The Late Pleistocene is an unofficial age in the international geologic timescale The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that classifies Geology, geological strata (stratigraphy) in time. It is used by geologists, ...
, most proboscidean species vanished during the
Quaternary glaciation The Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, is an alternating series of glacial A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age#REDIRECT Ice age {{R ...
which
killed off The killing off of a character is a device in fiction Fiction generally is a narrative form, in any media (communication), medium, consisting of people, events, or places that are imagination, imaginary—in other words, not based strictly on hist ...
50% of genera weighing over worldwide. Proboscideans experienced several evolutionary trends, such as an increase in size, which led to many giant species that stood up to tall. As with other
megaherbivore In terrestrial zoology, the megafauna (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέγας ''megas'' "large" and New Latin ''fauna'' "animal life") comprises the large or giant animals of an area, habitat, or geological period. The most common thresholds used ar ...
s, including the extinct
sauropod Sauropoda (), whose members are known as sauropods (; from ''sauro- This is a list of common affixes used when scientific name, scientifically naming species, particularly extinct species for whom only their scientific names are used, along wit ...
dinosaur Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptile Reptiles, as most commonly defined, are the animals in the Class (biology), class Reptilia , a paraphyletic grouping comprising all amniotes except synapsids (mammals and their extinct relatives) an ...

dinosaur
s, the large size of elephants likely developed to allow them to survive on vegetation with low nutritional value. Their limbs grew longer and the feet shorter and broader. The feet were originally
plantigrade 151px, Portion of a human skeleton, showing plantigrade habit In terrestrial animals, plantigrade locomotion means walking with the toes and metatarsals flat on the ground. It is one of three forms of locomotion adopted by terrestrial mammals. Th ...

plantigrade
and developed into a
digitigrade A digitigrade () is an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes. Digitigrades include walking birds (what many assume to be bird knees are actually ankle The ankle, or the talocrural region, is the region where the foot and the human leg ...
stance with cushion pads and the
sesamoid bone In anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any ind ...
providing support. Early proboscideans developed longer
mandible In anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any ind ...

mandible
s and smaller while more ones developed shorter mandibles, which shifted the head's
centre of gravity In physics, the center of mass of a distribution of mass in space (sometimes referred to as the balance point) is the unique point where the weighted relative position of the distributed mass sums to zero. This is the point to which a force ma ...
. The skull grew larger, especially the cranium, while the neck shortened to provide better support for the skull. The increase in size led to the development and elongation of the mobile trunk to provide reach. The number of
premolar The premolars, also called premolar teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to Mastication, break down food. Some animals, particularly carnivores, al ...
s, incisors and
canines Canine may refer to: Zoology * dog-like mammals (i.e. members of the canid Canidae (; from Latin, ''canis'', "dog") is a biological family of dog-like carnivora Carnivora is an order of placental mammals that have specialized in primaril ...
decreased. The cheek teeth (molars and premolars) of proboscideans became larger and more specialized, especially after elephants started to switch from C3-plants to C4-grasses, which caused their teeth to undergo a three-fold increase in teeth height as well as substantial multiplication of lamellae after about five million years ago. Only in the last million years or so did they return to a diet mainly consisting of C3 trees and shrubs. The upper second incisors grew into tusks, which varied in shape from straight, to curved (either upward or downward), to spiralled, depending on the species. Some proboscideans developed tusks from their lower incisors. Elephants retain certain features from their aquatic ancestry, such as their
middle ear The middle ear is the portion of the ear internal to the eardrum, and external to the oval window of the inner ear. The mammalian middle ear contains three ossicles, which transfer the vibrations of the eardrum into waves in the fluid and membran ...

middle ear
anatomy. Several species of proboscideans lived on islands and experienced
insular dwarfism Insular dwarfism, a form of phyletic dwarfism, is the process and condition of large animals evolving or having a reduced body size when their population's range is limited to a small environment, primarily islands. This natural process is distin ...
. This occurred primarily during the Pleistocene when some elephant populations became isolated by fluctuating sea levels, although dwarf elephants did exist earlier in the Pliocene. These elephants likely grew smaller on islands due to a lack of large or viable predator populations and limited resources. By contrast, small mammals such as
rodent Rodents (from Latin , 'to gnaw') are mammals of the Order (biology), order Rodentia (), which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. About 40% of all mammal species are rodents ...

rodent
s develop
gigantism Gigantism ( el, γίγας, ''gígas'', " giant", plural γίγαντες, ''gígantes''), also known as giantism, is a condition characterized by excessive growth and height significantly above average. In humans, this condition is caused by ove ...
in these conditions.
Dwarf elephant '' skeleton cast Dwarf elephants are prehistoric members of the order Proboscidea The Proboscidea (, from the Greek and the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European ...
s are known to have lived in
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of more than List of islands ...

Indonesia
, the
Channel Islands of California The Channel Islands () are an eight-island archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands ...
, and several islands of the
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin (also known as the Mediterranean region or sometimes Mediterranea) is the region of lands aroun ...
.Sukumar, pp. 31–33.


Anatomy and morphology


Size

Elephants are the largest living terrestrial animals. African bush elephants are the largest species, with males being tall at the shoulder with a body mass of and females standing tall at the shoulder with a body mass of . Male Asian elephants are usually about tall at the shoulder and whereas females are tall at the shoulder and . African forest elephants are the smallest species, with males usually being around tall at the shoulder and . Male African bush elephants are typically 23% taller than females, whereas male Asian elephants are only around 15% taller than females.


Bones

The skeleton of the elephant is made up of 326–351 bones. The vertebrae are connected by tight joints, which limit the backbone's flexibility. African elephants have 21 pairs of ribs, while Asian elephants have 19 or 20 pairs.


Head

An elephant's skull is resilient enough to withstand the forces generated by the leverage of the tusks and head-to-head collisions. The back of the skull is flattened and spread out, creating arches that protect the brain in every direction. The skull contains air cavities (
sinuses Paranasal sinuses are a group of four paired air-filled spaces that surround the nasal cavity The nasal cavity is a large, air-filled space above and behind the nose A nose is a protuberance in vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all speci ...
) that reduce the weight of the skull while maintaining overall strength. These cavities give the inside of the skull a
honeycomb A honeycomb is a mass of hexagonal prismatic wax cells built by honey bee A honey bee (also spelled honeybee) is a eusocial flying insect within the genus ''Apis'' of the bee clade, all native to Eurasia. They are known for their constructi ...

honeycomb
-like appearance. The cranium is particularly large and provides enough room for the attachment of muscles to support the entire head. The lower jaw is solid and heavy.Shoshani, pp. 68–70. Because of the size of the head, the neck is relatively short to provide better support. Lacking a
lacrimal apparatus The lacrimal apparatus is the physiological system containing the orbital structures for tear production and drainage.Cassin, B. and Solomon, S. ''Dictionary of Eye Terminology''. Gainesville, Florida: Triad Publishing Company, 1990. It consists ...
, the eye relies on the
harderian gland The Harderian gland is a gland found within the eye's orbit In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an physical body, object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet. No ...
to keep it moist. A durable
nictitating membrane The nictitating membrane (from Latin '' nictare'', to blink) is a transparent or translucent third eyelid present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye from the Medial (anatomy), medial canthus to protect and moisten it while maintaining ...
protects the eye globe. The animal's
field of vision The visual field is the "spatial array of visual sensations available to observation in introspection Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious , an English Paracelsian physician Consciousness, at its simplest, is " sentience or ...
is compromised by the location and limited mobility of the eyes. Elephants are considered dichromats and they can see well in dim light but not in bright light.


Ears

Elephant ears have thick bases with thin tips. The ear flaps, or
pinnae The auricle or auricula is the visible part of the ear that is outside the head. It is also called the pinna (Latin for "wing" or "fin", plural pinnae), a term that is used more in zoology. Structure The diagram shows the shape and location of m ...
, contain numerous blood vessels called
capillaries A capillary is a small blood vessel from 5 to 10 micrometres (μm) in diameter, and having a wall one endothelial cell thick. They are the smallest blood vessels in the body: they convey blood between the arterioles and venules. These microvessel ...

capillaries
. Warm blood flows into the capillaries, helping to release excess body heat into the environment. This occurs when the pinnae are still, and the animal can enhance the effect by flapping them. Larger ear surfaces contain more capillaries, and more heat can be released. Of all the elephants, African bush elephants live in the hottest climates, and have the largest ear flaps. Elephants are capable of hearing at low frequencies and are most sensitive at 1
kHz The hertz (symbol: Hz) is the derived unit of frequency Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and an ...

kHz
(in close proximity to the
Soprano A soprano () is a type of classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architectu ...

Soprano
C).


Trunk

The trunk, or
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proboscis
, is a fusion of the nose and upper lip, although in early
fetal A fetus American and British English spelling differences#ae and oe, or foetus (; plural fetuses, feti, foetuses, or foeti) is the unborn offspring that develops from an animal embryo. Following embryonic development the fetal stage of developme ...

fetal
life, the upper lip and trunk are separated. The trunk is elongated and specialised to become the elephant's most important and versatile appendage. It contains up to 150,000 separate
muscle fascicle A muscle fascicle is a bundle of skeletal muscle Skeletal muscle (also called striated muscle - although cardiac muscle is also striated) is one of three major muscle types, the others being cardiac muscle and smooth muscle. It is a form of striat ...
s, with no bone and little fat. These paired muscles consist of two major types: superficial (surface) and internal. The former are divided into dorsals, ventrals, and laterals while the latter are divided into
transverse Transverse may refer to: *Transverse engine, an engine in which the crankshaft is oriented side-to-side relative to the wheels of the vehicle *Transverse flute, a flute that is held horizontally *Euler force, Transverse force (or ''Euler force''), ...
and
radiating File:Radioactive.svg, upThe international symbol for types and levels of ionizing radiation (radioactivity) that are unsafe for Radiation shield, unshielded humans. Radiation, in general, exists throughout nature, such as in light and sound. ...
muscles. The muscles of the trunk connect to a bony opening in the skull. The nasal septum is composed of tiny muscle units that stretch horizontally between the nostrils. Cartilage divides the nostrils at the base.Shoshani, pp. 74–77. As a muscular hydrostat, the trunk moves by precisely coordinated muscle contractions. The muscles work both with and against each other. A unique proboscis nerve – formed by the maxillary nerve, maxillary and facial nerves – runs along both sides of the trunk. Elephant trunks have multiple functions, including breathing, olfaction, touching, grasping, and sound production. The animal's sense of smell may be four times as sensitive as that of a bloodhound. The trunk's ability to make powerful twisting and coiling movements allows it to collect food, wrestle with other elephants,Kingdon, p. 9. and lift up to . It can be used for delicate tasks, such as wiping an eye and checking an orifice, and is capable of cracking a peanut shell without breaking the seed. With its trunk, an elephant can reach items at heights of up to and dig for water under mud or sand. Individuals may show lateral preference when grasping with their trunks: some prefer to twist them to the left, others to the right. Elephants are capable of dilating their nostrils at a radius of nearly 30%, increasing the nasal volume by 64%, and can inhale at over which is around 30 times the speed of a human sneeze. Elephants can suck up food and water both to spray in the mouth and, in the case of the later, to sprinkle on their bodies. An adult Asian elephant is capable of holding of water in its trunk. They will also spray dust or grass on themselves. When underwater, the elephant uses its trunk as a Submarine snorkel, snorkel. The African elephant has two finger-like extensions at the tip of the trunk that allow it to grasp and bring food to its mouth. The Asian elephant has only one and relies more on wrapping around a food item and squeezing it into its mouth. Asian elephants have more muscle coordination and can perform more complex tasks. Losing the trunk would be detrimental to an elephant's survival, although in rare cases, individuals have survived with shortened ones. One elephant has been observed to graze by kneeling on its front legs, raising on its hind legs and taking in grass with its lips. Floppy trunk syndrome is a condition of trunk paralysis in African bush elephants caused by the degradation of the Peripheral nervous system, peripheral nerves and muscles beginning at the tip.


Teeth

Elephants usually have 26 teeth: the incisors, known as the tusks, 12 Deciduous teeth, deciduous
premolar The premolars, also called premolar teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to Mastication, break down food. Some animals, particularly carnivores, al ...
s, and 12
molars The molars or molar teeth are large, flat teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to Mastication, break down food. Some animals, particularly carniv ...
. Unlike most mammals, which Tooth development, grow baby teeth and then replace them with a single permanent set of adult teeth, elephants are polyphyodonts that have cycles of tooth rotation throughout their lives. The chewing teeth are replaced six times in a typical elephant's lifetime. Teeth are not replaced by new ones emerging from the jaws vertically as in most mammals. Instead, new teeth grow in at the back of the mouth and move forward to push out the old ones. The first chewing tooth on each side of the jaw falls out when the elephant is two to three years old. The second set of chewing teeth falls out at four to six years old. The third set falls out at 9–15 years of age and set four lasts until 18–28 years of age. The fifth set of teeth falls out at the early 40s. The sixth (and usually final) set must last the elephant the rest of its life. Elephant teeth have loop-shaped dental ridges, which are thicker and more diamond-shaped in African elephants.Shoshani, pp. 70–71.


Tusks

The tusks of an elephant are modified second incisors in the upper jaw. They replace deciduous milk teeth at 6–12 months of age and grow continuously at about a year. A newly developed tusk has a smooth tooth enamel, enamel cap that eventually wears off. The dentine is known as
ivory Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusk Tusks are elongated, continuously growing front teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to Masticat ...
and its Cross section (geometry), cross-section consists of crisscrossing line patterns, known as "engine turning", which create diamond-shaped areas. As a piece of living tissue, a tusk is relatively soft; it is as hard as the mineral calcite. Much of the tusk can be seen outside; the rest is in a socket in the skull. At least one-third of the tusk contains the Pulp (tooth), pulp and some have nerves stretching to the tip. Thus it would be difficult to remove it without harming the animal. When removed, ivory begins to dry up and crack if not kept cool and moist. Tusks serve multiple purposes. They are used for digging for water, salt, and roots; debarking or marking trees; and for moving trees and branches when clearing a path. When fighting, they are used to attack and defend, and to protect the trunk. Like humans, who are typically Handedness, right- or left-handed, elephants are usually right- or left-tusked. The dominant tusk, called the master tusk, is generally more worn down, as it is shorter with a rounder tip. For the African elephants, tusks are present in both males and females, and are around the same length in both sexes, reaching up to , but those of males tend to be thicker. In earlier times, elephant tusks weighing over 200 pounds (more than 90 kg) were not uncommon, though it is rare today to see any over . In the Asian species, only the males have large tusks. Female Asians have very small tusks, or none at all.Shoshani, pp. 71–74. Tuskless males exist and are particularly common among Sri Lankan elephants. Asian males can have tusks as long as Africans', but they are usually slimmer and lighter; the largest recorded was long and weighed . Hunting for elephant ivory in Africa and Asia has led to natural selection for shorter tusks and tusklessness.


Skin

An elephant's skin is generally very tough, at thick on the back and parts of the head. The skin around the mouth, anus, and inside of the ear is considerably thinner. Elephants typically have grey skin, but African elephants look brown or reddish after wallowing in coloured mud. Asian elephants have some patches of depigmentation, particularly on the forehead and ears and the areas around them. Calves have brownish or reddish hair, especially on the head and back. As elephants mature, their hair darkens and becomes sparser, but dense concentrations of hair and bristles remain on the end of the tail as well as the chin, Sex organ, genitals and the areas around the eyes and ear openings. Normally the skin of an Asian elephant is covered with more hair than its African counterpart.Shoshani, pp. 66–67. Their hair is thought to be for thermoregulation, helping them lose heat in their hot environments. An elephant uses mud as a sunscreen, protecting its skin from ultraviolet light. Although tough, an elephant's skin is very sensitive. Without regular mud baths to protect it from burning, insect bites and moisture loss, an elephant's skin suffers serious damage. After bathing, the elephant will usually use its trunk to blow dust onto its body and this dries into a protective crust. Elephants have difficulty releasing heat through the skin because of their low surface-area-to-volume ratio, which is many times smaller than that of a human. They have even been observed lifting up their legs, presumably in an effort to expose their soles to the air.


Legs, locomotion, and posture

To support the animal's weight, an elephant's limbs are positioned more vertically under the body than in most other mammals. The long bones of the limbs have cancellous bone in place of medullary cavity, medullary cavities. This strengthens the bones while still allowing haematopoiesis.Shoshani, pp. 69–70. Both the front and hind limbs can support an elephant's weight, although 60% is borne by the front. Since the limb bones are placed on top of each other and under the body, an elephant can stand still for long periods of time without using much energy. Elephants are incapable of rotating their front legs, as the ulna and Radius (bone), radius are fixed in pronation; the "palm" of the manus faces backward. The Pronator quadratus muscle, pronator quadratus and the Pronator teres muscle, pronator teres are either reduced or absent. The circular feet of an elephant have soft tissues or "cushion pads" beneath the Manus (anatomy), manus or Pes (anatomy), pes, which distribute the weight of the animal. They appear to have a Sesamoid bone, sesamoid, an extra "toe" similar in placement to a giant panda's extra "thumb", that also helps in weight distribution. As many as five toenails can be found on both the front and hind feet. Elephants can move both forwards and backwards, but cannot trot, jumping, jump, or Horse gait, gallop. They use only two gaits when moving on land: the walk and a faster gait similar to running. In walking, the legs act as pendulums, with the hips and shoulders rising and falling while the foot is planted on the ground. With no "aerial phase", the fast gait does not meet all the criteria of running, although the elephant uses its legs much like other running animals, with the hips and shoulders falling and then rising while the feet are on the ground. Fast-moving elephants appear to 'run' with their front legs, but 'walk' with their hind legs and can reach a top speed of . At this speed, most other Quadrupedalism, quadrupeds are well into a gallop, even accounting for leg length. Spring-like kinetics could explain the difference between the motion of elephants and other animals. During locomotion, the cushion pads expand and contract, and reduce both the pain and noise that would come from a very heavy animal moving. Elephants are capable swimmers. They have been recorded swimming for up to six hours without touching the bottom, and have travelled as far as at a stretch and at speeds of up to .


Organs

The brain of an elephant weighs compared to for a human brain. While the elephant brain is larger overall, it is proportionally smaller. At birth, an elephant's brain already weighs 30–40% of its adult weight. The cerebrum and cerebellum are well developed, and the temporal lobes are so large that they bulge out laterally. The throat of an elephant appears to contain a pouch where it can store water for later use. The larynx of the elephant is the largest known among mammals. The vocal folds are long and are attached close to the epiglottis base. When comparing an elephant's vocal folds to those of a human, an elephant's are longer, thicker, and have a larger cross-sectional area. In addition, they are tilted at 45 degrees and positioned more anteriorly than a human's vocal folds. The heart of an elephant weighs . It has a double-pointed Heart#Location and shape, apex, an unusual trait among mammals. In addition, the Ventricle (heart), ventricles separate near the top of the heart, a trait they share with sirenians. When standing, the elephant's heart beats approximately 30 times per minute. Unlike many other animals, the heart rate speeds up by 8 to 10 beats per minute when the elephant is lying down. The blood vessels in most of the body are wide and thick and can withstand high blood pressures. The lungs are attached to the Thoracic diaphragm, diaphragm, and breathing relies mainly on the diaphragm rather than the expansion of the ribcage.Shoshani, pp. 78–79. Connective tissue exists in place of the pleural cavity. This may allow the animal to deal with the pressure differences when its body is underwater and its trunk is breaking the surface for air, although this explanation has been questioned. Another possible function for this adaptation is that it helps the animal suck up water through the trunk. Elephants inhale mostly through the trunk, although some air goes through the mouth. They have a hindgut fermentation system, and their large and small intestines together reach in length. The majority of an elephant's food intake goes undigested despite the process lasting up to a day. A male elephant's testes are located internally near the kidneys. The elephant's penis can reach a length of and a diameter of at the base. It is S-shaped when fully erect and has a Y-shaped External urethral orifice (male), orifice. The female has a well-developed clitoris at up to . The vulva is located between the hind legs instead of near the tail as in most mammals. Determining pregnancy status can be difficult due to the animal's large abdominal cavity. The female's mammary glands occupy the space between the front legs, which puts the suckling calf within reach of the female's trunk. Elephants have a unique organ, the Temporin, temporal gland, located in both sides of the head. This organ is associated with sexual behaviour, and males secrete a fluid from it when in
musth Musth or must (; ur, مست, from Persian, ) is a periodic condition in bull (male) elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can b ...

musth
. Females have also been observed with secretions from the temporal glands.Sukumar, p. 149.


Body temperature

Elephants are homeothermy, homeotherms, and maintain their average body temperature at ~ 36 °C, with minimum 35.2 °C during cool season, and maximum 38.0 °C during hot dry season. Sweat glands are absent in the elephant's skin, but water diffuses through the skin, allowing cooling by evaporative loss. Other physiological or behavioral features may assist with thermoregulation such as flapping ears, mud bathing, spraying water on the skin, seeking shade, and adopting different walking patterns. In addition, the interconnected crevices in the elephant's skin is thought to impede dehydration and improve thermal regulation over a long period of time.


Behaviour and life history


Ecology and activities

The African bush elephant can be found in habitats as diverse as dry
savanna A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the '' plurale tantum'' woods), a low-density forest A forest is an ...

savanna
hs, deserts,
marsh A marsh is a wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevailin ...

marsh
es, and lake shores, and in elevations from sea level to mountains above the snow line. Forest elephants mainly live in Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests, equatorial forests but will enter gallery forests and ecotones between forests and savannahs.Shoshani, pp. 42–51. Asian elephants prefer areas with a mix of grasses, low woody plants, and trees, primarily inhabiting dry Deccan thorn scrub forests, thorn-scrub forests in southern India and Sri Lanka and evergreen forests in Malay Peninsula, Malaya. Elephants are Herbivore, herbivorous and will eat leaves, twigs, fruit, bark, grass and roots. They are born with sterile intestines and require bacteria obtained from their mother's feces to digest vegetation. African elephants are mostly Browsing (herbivory), browsers while Asian elephants are mainly Grazing, grazers. They can consume as much as of food and of water in a day. Elephants tend to stay near water sources. Major feeding bouts take place in the morning, afternoon and night. At midday, elephants rest under trees and may doze off while standing. Sleeping occurs at night while the animal is lying down. Elephants average 3–4 hours of sleep per day. Both males and family groups typically move a day, but distances as far as have been recorded in the Etosha National Park, Etosha region of Namibia. Elephants go on seasonal migrations in search of food, water, minerals, and mates. At Chobe National Park, Botswana, herds travel to visit the river when the local waterholes dry up. Because of their large size, elephants have a huge impact on their environments and are considered keystone species. Their habit of uprooting trees and undergrowth can transform savannah into grasslands; when they dig for water during drought, they create waterholes that can be used by other animals. They can enlarge waterholes when they bathe and wallow in them. At Mount Elgon, elephants excavate caves that are used by ungulates, hyraxes, bats, birds and insects. Elephants are important Seed dispersal, seed dispersers; African forest elephants ingest and defecate seeds, with either no effect or a positive effect on germination. The seeds are typically dispersed in large amounts over great distances. In Asian forests, large seeds require giant herbivores like elephants and rhinoceros for transport and dispersal. This ecological niche cannot be filled by the next largest herbivore, the Malayan tapir, tapir. Because most of the food elephants eat goes undigested, their dung can provide food for other animals, such as dung beetles and monkeys.Shoshani, pp. 226–29. Elephants can have a negative impact on ecosystems. At Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, the overabundance of elephants has threatened several species of small birds that depend on woodlands. Their weight can compact the soil, which causes the rain to surface runoff, run off, leading to erosion.Eltringham, pp. 124–27. Elephants typically coexist peacefully with other herbivores, which will usually stay out of their way. Some aggressive interactions between elephants and rhinoceros have been recorded. At Aberdare National Park, Kenya, a rhino attacked an elephant calf and was killed by the other elephants in the group. At Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, Hluhluwe–Umfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa, introduced young orphan elephants went on a killing spree that claimed the lives of 36 rhinos during the 1990s, but ended with the introduction of older males. The size of adult elephants makes them nearly invulnerable to predators. Calves may be preyed on by lions, spotted hyenas, and Lycaon pictus, wild dogs in Africa and tigers in Asia. The lions of Chobe National Park#Geography and ecosystems, Savuti, Botswana, have adapted to hunting elephants, mostly calves, juveniles or even sub-adults, during the dry season, and a pride of 30 lions has been normally recorded killing juvenile individuals between the ages of four and eleven years, and a young bull of about 15 years in an exceptional case. There are rare reports of adult Asian elephants falling prey to tigers. Elephants appear to distinguish between the growls of larger predators like tigers and smaller predators like leopards (which have not been recorded killing calves); they react to leopards less fearfully and more aggressively. Elephants tend to have high numbers of parasites, particularly nematodes, compared to other herbivores. This is due to lower predation pressures that would otherwise kill off many of the individuals with significant parasite loads.


Social organisation

Female elephants spend their entire lives in tight-knit Matrilineality, matrilineal family groups, some of which are made up of more than ten members, including three mothers and their dependent offspring, and are led by the
matriarch Matriarchy is a social system in which females (most notably in mammals) hold the primary power positions in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. While those definitions apply in general E ...
which is often the eldest female. She remains leader of the group until death or if she no longer has the energy for the role;Kingdon, p. 53. a study on zoo elephants showed that when the matriarch died, the levels of faecal corticosterone ('stress hormone') dramatically increased in the surviving elephants. When her tenure is over, the matriarch's eldest daughter takes her place; this occurs even if her sister is present. One study found that younger matriarchs are more likely than older ones to under-react to severe danger. Family groups may split after becoming too large for the available resources. The social circle of the female elephant does not necessarily end with the small family unit. In the case of elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, a female's life involves interaction with other families, clans, and subpopulations. Families may associate and bond with each other, forming what are known as bond groups which typically made of two family groups. During the dry season, elephant families may cluster together and form another level of social organisation known as the clan. Groups within these clans do not form strong bonds, but they defend their dry-season ranges against other clans. There are typically nine groups in a clan. The Amboseli elephant population is further divided into the "central" and "peripheral" subpopulations.Sukumar, pp. 175–79. Some elephant populations in India and Sri Lanka have similar basic social organisations. There appear to be cohesive family units and loose aggregations. They have been observed to have "nursing units" and "juvenile-care units". In southern India, elephant populations may contain family groups, bond groups and possibly clans. Family groups tend to be small, consisting of one or two adult females and their offspring. A group containing more than two adult females plus offspring is known as a "joint family". Malay elephant populations have even smaller family units and do not have any social organisation higher than a family or bond group. Groups of African forest elephants typically consist of one adult female with one to three offspring. These groups appear to interact with each other, especially at forest clearings. The social life of the adult male is very different. As he matures, a male spends more time at the edge of his group and associates with outside males or even other families. At Amboseli, young males spend over 80% of their time away from their families when they are 14–15. When males permanently leave, they either live alone or with other males. The former is typical of bulls in dense forests. Asian males are usually solitary, but occasionally form groups of two or more individuals; the largest consisted of seven bulls. Larger bull groups consisting of over 10 members occur only among African bush elephants, the largest of which numbered up to 144 individuals. Bulls only return to the herd to breed or to socialize, they do not provide prenatal care to their offspring but rather play a fatherly role to younger bulls to show dominance. Male elephants can be quite sociable when not competing for dominance or mates, and will form long-term relationships. A dominance hierarchy exists among males, whether they range socially or solitarily. Dominance depends on the age, size and sexual condition, and when in groups, males follow the lead of the dominant bull. Young bulls may seek out the company and leadership of older, more experienced males, whose presence appears to control their aggression and prevent them from exhibiting "deviant" behaviour. Adult males and females come together for reproduction. Bulls associate with family groups if an Estrous cycle, oestrous cow is present.Sukumar, pp. 179–83.


Sexual behaviour


Musth

Adult males enter a state of increased
testosterone Testosterone is the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid Anabolic steroids, also known more properly as anabolic–androgenic steroids (AAS), are steroidal androgens that include natural androgens like testosterone (medication), testoste ...
known as
musth Musth or must (; ur, مست, from Persian, ) is a periodic condition in bull (male) elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can b ...

musth
. In a population in southern India, males first enter musth at the age of 15, but it is not very intense until they are older than 25. At Amboseli, bulls under 24 do not go into musth, while half of those aged 25–35 and all those over 35 do. Young bulls appear to enter musth during the dry season (January–May), while older bulls go through it during the wet season (June–December). The main characteristic of a bull's musth is a fluid secreted from the Temporin, temporal gland that runs down the side of his face. He may urinate with his penis still in his penile sheath, sheath, which causes the urine to spray on his hind legs. Behaviours associated with musth include walking with the head held high and swinging, picking at the ground with the tusks, marking, rumbling and waving only one ear at a time. This can last from a day to four months. Males become extremely aggressive during musth. Size is the determining factor in Agonistic behaviour, agonistic encounters when the individuals have the same condition. In contests between musth and non-musth individuals, musth bulls win the majority of the time, even when the non-musth bull is larger. A male may stop showing signs of musth when he encounters a musth male of higher rank. Those of equal rank tend to avoid each other. Agonistic encounters typically consist of threat displays, chases, and minor sparring with the tusks. Serious fights are rare.Sukumar, pp. 100–08.


Mating

Elephants are Polygyny, polygynous breeders, and animal sexual behaviour, copulations are most frequent during the peak of the wet season. A cow in oestrus releases chemical signals (pheromones) in her urine and vaginal secretions to signal her readiness to mate. A bull will follow a potential mate and assess her condition with the flehmen response, which requires the male to collect a chemical sample with his trunk and bring it to the vomeronasal organ. The oestrous cycle of a cow lasts 14–16 weeks with a 4–6-week follicular phase and an 8- to 10-week luteal phase. While most mammals have one surge of luteinizing hormone during the follicular phase, elephants have two. The first (or anovulatory) surge, could signal to males that the female is in oestrus by changing her scent, but ovulation does not occur until the second (or ovulatory) surge. Fertility rates in cows decline around 45–50 years of age. Bulls engage in a behaviour known as mate-guarding, where they follow oestrous females and defend them from other males. Most mate-guarding is done by musth males, and females actively seek to be guarded by them, particularly older ones. Thus these bulls have more reproductive success. Musth appears to signal to females the condition of the male, as weak or injured males do not have normal musths. For young females, the approach of an older bull can be intimidating, so her relatives stay nearby to provide support and reassurance. During copulation, the male lays his trunk over the female's back. The penis is very mobile, being able to move independently of the pelvis. Prior to mounting, it curves forward and upward. Copulation lasts about 45 seconds and does not involve pelvic thrusting or ejaculatory pause. Elephant sperm must swim close to to reach the egg. By comparison, human sperm has to swim around only . Homosexual behavior in animals#Elephants, Homosexual behaviour is frequent in both sexes. As in heterosexual interactions, this involves mounting. Male elephants sometimes stimulate each other by playfighting and "championships" may form between old bulls and younger males. Female same-sex behaviours have been documented only in captivity where they are known to Animal sexual behaviour#Autoeroticism or masturbation, masturbate one another with their trunks.


Birth and development

Gestation in elephants typically lasts around two years with interbirth intervals usually lasting four to five years. Births tend to take place during the wet season. Calves are born tall and weigh around .Moss, pp. 106–13. Typically, only a single young is born, but twins sometimes occur. The relatively long pregnancy is maintained by five corpus luteums (as opposed to one in most mammals) and gives the foetus more time to develop, particularly the brain and trunk. As such, newborn elephants are precocial and quickly stand and walk to follow their mother and family herd. A new calf is usually the centre of attention for herd members. Adults and most of the other young will gather around the newborn, touching and caressing it with their trunks. For the first few days, the mother is intolerant of other herd members near her young. Alloparenting – where a calf is cared for by someone other than its mother – takes place in some family groups. Allomothers are typically two to twelve years old. For the first few days, the newborn is unsteady on its feet and needs the support of its mother. It relies on touch, smell, and hearing, as its eyesight is poor. It has little precise control over its trunk, which wiggles around and may cause it to trip. By its second week of life, the calf can walk more firmly and has more control over its trunk. After its first month, a calf can pick up, hold, and put objects in its mouth, but cannot suck water through the trunk and must drink directly through the mouth. It is still dependent on its mother and keeps close to her. For its first three months, a calf relies entirely on milk from its mother for nutrition, after which it begins to forage for vegetation and can use its trunk to collect water. At the same time, improvements in lip and leg coordination occur. Calves continue to suckle at the same rate as before until their sixth month, after which they become more independent when feeding. By nine months, mouth, trunk and foot coordination is perfected. After a year, a calf's abilities to groom, drink, and feed itself are fully developed. It still needs its mother for nutrition and protection from predators for at least another year. Suckling bouts tend to last 2–4 min/hr for a calf younger than a year and it continues to suckle until it reaches three years of age or older. Suckling after two years may serve to maintain growth rate, body condition and reproductive ability.Sukumar, pp. 126–29. Play behaviour in calves differs between the sexes; females run or chase each other while males play-fight. The former are sexually mature by the age of nine years while the latter become mature around 14–15 years. Adulthood starts at about 18 years of age in both sexes. Elephants have long lifespans, reaching 60–70 years of age. Lin Wang, a captive male Asian elephant, lived for 86 years.


Communication

Touching is an important form of communication among elephants. Individuals greet each other by stroking or wrapping their trunks; the latter also occurs during mild competition. Older elephants use trunk-slaps, kicks, and shoves to discipline younger ones. Individuals of any age and sex will touch each other's mouths, temporal glands, and genitals, particularly during meetings or when excited. This allows individuals to pick up chemical cues. Touching is especially important for mother–calf communication. When moving, elephant mothers will touch their calves with their trunks or feet when side-by-side or with their tails if the calf is behind them. If a calf wants to rest, it will press against its mother's front legs and when it wants to suckle, it will touch her breast or leg. Visual displays mostly occur in agonistic situations. Elephants will try to appear more threatening by raising their heads and spreading their ears. They may add to the display by shaking their heads and snapping their ears, as well as throwing dust and vegetation. They are usually bluffing when performing these actions. Excited elephants may raise their trunks. Submissive ones will lower their heads and trunks, as well as flatten their ears against their necks, while those that accept a challenge will position their ears in a V shape. Elephants produce several vocalisations, usually through the larynx, though some may be Vocal resonation, modified by the trunk.Payne and Langbauer, pp. 120–21. These include trumpets, roars, barks, snorts, growls and rumbles which may be produced for either short or long range communication. Elephants may produce Infrasound, infrasonic rumbles. For Asian elephants, these calls have a frequency of 14–24 Hertz, Hz, with sound pressure levels of 85–90 Decibel, dB and last 10–15 seconds. For African elephants, calls range from 15 to 35 Hz with sound pressure levels as high as 117 dB, allowing communication for many kilometres, with a possible maximum range of around . Elephants are known to seismic communication, communicate with seismics, vibrations produced by impacts on the earth's surface or acoustical waves that travel through it. An individual running or mock charging can create seismic signals that can be heard at travel distances of up to . Seismic waveforms produced from predator alarm calls travel .


Intelligence and cognition

Elephants exhibit Mirror test, mirror self-recognition, an indication of
self-awareness In philosophy of self The philosophy of self is the study of the many conditions of identity that make one subject of experience Experience is the process through which conscious organisms Perception, perceive the world around them. Experi ...
and cognition that has also been demonstrated in some apes and dolphins. One study of a captive female Asian elephant suggested the animal was capable of learning and distinguishing between several visual and some acoustic discrimination pairs. This individual was even able to score a high accuracy rating when re-tested with the same visual pairs a year later. Elephants are among the Tool use by animals, species known to use tools. An Asian elephant has been observed modifying branches and using them as Fly-killing device, flyswatters. Tool modification by these animals is not as advanced as that of Pan (genus), chimpanzees. Elephants are popularly thought of as having an excellent memory. This could have a factual basis; they possibly have cognitive maps to allow them to remember large-scale spaces over long periods of time. Individuals appear to be able to keep track of the current location of their family members. Scientists debate the extent to which elephants feel emotion. They appear to show interest in the bones of their own kind, regardless of whether they are related. As with chimps and dolphins, a dying or dead elephant may elicit attention and aid from others, including those from other groups. This has been interpreted as expressing "concern"; however, others would dispute such an interpretation as being anthropomorphic; the ''Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour'' (1987) advised that "one is well advised to study the behaviour rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion".


Conservation


Status

African bush elephants were listed as Endangered by the
International Union for Conservation of Nature The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; officially International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural ...
(IUCN) in 2021, and African forest elephants were listed as Critically Endangered in the same year. In 1979, Africa had an estimated minimum population of 1.3 million elephants, with a possible upper limit of 3.0 million. By 1989, the population was estimated to be 609,000; with 277,000 in Central Africa, 110,000 in East Africa, eastern Africa, 204,000 in southern Africa, and 19,000 in West Africa, western Africa. About 214,000 elephants were estimated to live in the rainforests, fewer than had previously been thought. From 1977 to 1989, elephant populations declined by 74% in East Africa. After 1987, losses in elephant numbers accelerated, and savannah populations from Cameroon to Somalia experienced a decline of 80%. African forest elephants had a total loss of 43%. Population trends in southern Africa were mixed, with anecdotal reports of losses in Zambia, Mozambique and Angola while populations grew in Botswana and Zimbabwe and were stable in South Africa. Conversely, studies in 2005 and 2007 found populations in eastern and southern Africa were increasing by an average annual rate of 4.0%. The IUCN estimated that total population in Africa is estimated at around to 415,000 individuals for both species combined as of 2016. African elephants receive at least some legal protection in every country where they are found, but 70% of their range exists outside protected areas. Successful conservation efforts in certain areas have led to high population densities. As of 2008, local numbers were controlled by contraception or Species translocation, translocation. Large-scale cullings ceased in 1988 when Zimbabwe abandoned the practice. In 1989, the African elephant was listed under Appendix I by the CITES, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), making trade illegal. Appendix II status (which allows restricted trade) was given to elephants in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe in 1997 and South Africa in 2000. In some countries, Trophy hunting, sport hunting of the animals is legal; Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have CITES export quotas for elephant trophies. In June 2016, the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, helped launch the East Africa Grass-Root Elephant Education Campaign Walk, organised by elephant conservationist Jim Nyamu. The event was conducted to raise awareness of the value of elephants and rhinos, to help mitigate human-elephant conflicts, and to promote anti-poaching activities.Star website
"First Lady launches campaign to save elephants."
4 June 2016. Accessed 5 June 2016.
In 2020, the IUCN listed the Asian elephant as endangered due to an almost 50% population decline over "the last three generations" Asian elephants once ranged from Syria and Iraq (the subspecies Syrian elephant, ''Elephas maximus asurus''), to China (up to the Yellow River)Daniel, p. 174. and Java. It is now extinct in these areas, and the current range of Asian elephants is highly fragmented. The total population of Asian elephants is estimated to be around 40,000–50,000, although this may be a loose estimate. Around 60% of the population is in India. Although Asian elephants are declining in numbers overall, particularly in Southeast Asia, the population in the Western Ghats appears to be increasing.


Threats

The poaching of elephants for their ivory, meat and hides has been one of the major threats to their existence. Historically, numerous cultures made ornaments and other works of art from elephant ivory, and its use rivalled that of gold.Martin, pp. 202–07 The ivory trade contributed to the African elephant population decline in the late 20th century. This prompted international bans on ivory imports, starting with the United States in June 1989, and followed by bans in other North American countries, western European countries, and Japan. Around the same time, Kenya destroyed all its ivory stocks. CITES approved an international ban on ivory that went into effect in January 1990. Following the bans, unemployment rose in India and China, where the ivory industry was important economically. By contrast, Japan and Hong Kong, which were also part of the industry, were able to adapt and were not badly affected. Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Malawi wanted to continue the ivory trade and were allowed to, since their local elephant populations were healthy, but only if their supplies were from elephants that had been culled or died of natural causes. The ban allowed the elephant to recover in parts of Africa. In January 2012, 650 elephants in Bouba Njida National Park, Cameroon, were killed by Chadian raiders. This has been called "one of the worst concentrated killings" since the ivory ban. Asian elephants are potentially less vulnerable to the ivory trade, as females usually lack tusks. Still, members of the species have been killed for their ivory in some areas, such as Periyar National Park in India. China was the biggest market for poached ivory but announced they would phase out the legal domestic manufacture and sale of ivory products in May 2015, and in September 2015, China and the United States said "they would enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory" due to causes of extinction. Other threats to elephants include
habitat destructionHabitat destruction (also termed habitat loss and habitat reduction) is the process by which a natural habitat In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relatio ...
and Habitat fragmentation, fragmentation. The Asian elephant lives in areas with some of the highest human populations and may be confined to small islands of forest among human-dominated landscapes. Elephants commonly trample and consume crops, which contributes to conflicts with humans, and both elephants and humans have died by the hundreds as a result. Mitigating these conflicts is important for conservation. One proposed solution is the protection of wildlife corridors which gave the animals greater space and maintain the long term viability of large populations.


Association with humans


Working animal

Elephants have been
working animal A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secu ...
s since at least the Indus Valley Civilization and continue to be used in modern times. There were 13,000–16,500 working elephants employed in Asia in 2000. These animals are typically captured from the wild when they are 10–20 years old when they can be trained quickly and easily, and will have a longer working life. They were Mela shikar, traditionally captured with traps and lassos, but since 1950, sedative, tranquillisers have been used. Individuals of the Asian species have been often trained as working animals. Asian elephants perform tasks such as hauling loads into remote areas, moving logs to rivers and roads, transporting tourists around national parks, pulling wagons, and leading religious processions. In northern Thailand, the animals are used to digest coffee beans for Black Ivory coffee. They are valued over mechanised tools because they can work in relatively deep water, require relatively little maintenance, need only vegetation and water as fuel and can be trained to memorise specific tasks. Elephants can be trained to respond to over 30 commands.McNeely, pp. 149–50. Musth bulls can be difficult and dangerous to work with and are chained and semi-starved until the condition passes. In India, many working elephants are alleged to have been subject to abuse. They and other captive elephants are thus protected under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960. In both Myanmar and Thailand, deforestation and other economic factors have resulted in sizable populations of unemployed elephants resulting in health problems for the elephants themselves as well as economic and safety problems for the people amongst whom they live. The practice of working elephants has also been attempted in Africa. The taming of African elephants in the Belgian Congo began by decree of Leopold II of Belgium during the 19th century and continues to the present with the Api Elephant Domestication Center, Api Elephant Domestication Centre.


Warfare

Historically, elephants were considered formidable instruments of war. They were equipped with armour to protect their sides, and their tusks were given sharp points of iron or brass if they were large enough. War elephants were trained to grasp an enemy soldier and toss him to the person riding on them or to pin the soldier to the ground and impale him. One of the earliest references to war elephants is in the Indian epic ''Mahabharata'' (written in the 4th century BC, but said to describe events between the 11th and 8th centuries BC). They were not used as much as horse-drawn chariots by either the Pandavas or Kauravas. During the Magadha Kingdom (which began in the 6th century BC), elephants began to achieve greater cultural importance than horses, and later Indian kingdoms used war elephants extensively; 3,000 of them were used in the Nanda Empire, Nandas (5th and 4th centuries BC) army while 9,000 may have been used in the Maurya Empire, Mauryan army (between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC). The ''Arthashastra'' (written around 300 BC) advised the Mauryan government to reserve some forests for wild elephants for use in the army, and to execute anyone who killed them. From South Asia, the use of elephants in warfare spread west to Iran, Persia and east to Southeast Asia. The Persians used them during the Achaemenid Empire (between the 6th and 4th centuries BC) while Southeast Asian states first used war elephants possibly as early as the 5th century BC and continued to the 20th century. In his 326 B.C. Indian campaign, Alexander the Great confronted elephants for the first time and suffered heavy casualties. Among the reasons for the refusal of the rank-and-file Macedonian soldiers to continue the Indian conquest were rumors of even larger elephant armies in India. Alexander trained his foot soldiers to injure the animals and cause them to panic during wars with both the Persians and Indians. Ptolemy I Soter, Ptolemy, who was one of Alexander's generals, used corps of Asian elephants during his reign as the ruler of Egypt (which began in 323 BC). His son and successor Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Ptolemy II (who began his rule in 285 BC) obtained his supply of elephants further south in Nubia. From then on, war elephants were employed in the Mediterranean and North Africa throughout the classical antiquity, classical period. The Greek king Pyrrhus of Epirus, Pyrrhus used elephants in his attempted invasion of Rome in 280 BC. While they frightened the Roman horses, they were not decisive and Pyrrhus ultimately lost the battle. The Carthage, Carthaginian general Hannibal took elephants across the Alps during his war with the Romans and reached the Po Valley in 217 BC with all of them alive, but they later succumbed to disease.Wylie (2000), pp. 146–48. Overall, elephants owed their initial successes to the element of surprise and to the fear that their great size invoked. With time, strategists devised counter-measures and war elephants turned into an expensive liability and were hardly ever used by Romans and Parthian Empire, Parthians.


Zoos and circuses

Elephants were historically kept for display in the menageries of Ancient Egypt, Elephants in ancient China, China, Ancient Greece, Greece, and Ancient Rome, Rome. The Romans in particular pitted them against humans and other animals in gladiator events. In the Modern history, modern era, elephants have traditionally been a major part of zoos and
circus A circus is a company of performers who put on diverse entertainment shows that may include clowns, acrobatics, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, dancers, hooping, hoopers, tightrope walkers, juggling, jugglers, magic (illusi ...
es around the world. In circuses, they are trained to perform tricks. The most famous circus elephant was probably Jumbo (1861 – 15 September 1885), who was a major attraction in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Barnum & Bailey Circus. These animals do not reproduce well in captivity, due to the difficulty of handling musth bulls and limited understanding of female oestrous cycles. Asian elephants were always more common than their African counterparts in modern zoos and circuses. After CITES listed the Asian elephant under Appendix I in 1975, the number of African elephants in zoos increased in the 1980s, although the import of Asians continued. Subsequently, the US received many of its captive African elephants from Zimbabwe, which had an overabundance of the animals.Tuttle, pp. 184–88. Keeping elephants in zoos has met with some controversy. Proponents of zoos argue that they offer researchers easy access to the animals and provide money and expertise for preserving their natural habitats, as well as safekeeping for the species. Critics claim that the animals in zoos are under physical and mental stress. Elephants have been recorded displaying Stereotypy (non-human), stereotypical behaviours in the form of swaying back and forth, trunk swaying, or route tracing. This has been observed in 54% of individuals in UK zoos. Elephants in European zoos appear to have shorter lifespans than their wild counterparts at only 17 years, although other studies suggest that zoo elephants live as long those in the wild. The use of elephants in circuses has also been controversial; the Humane Society of the United States has accused circuses of mistreating and distressing their animals. In testimony to a US federal court in 2009, Barnum & Bailey Circus CEO Kenneth Jeffrey Feld, Kenneth Feld acknowledged that circus elephants are struck behind their ears, under their chins and on their legs with metal-tipped prods, called Elephant goad, bull hooks or ankus. Feld stated that these practices are necessary to protect circus workers and acknowledged that an elephant trainer was reprimanded for using an electric shock device, known as a hot shot or electric prod, on an elephant. Despite this, he denied that any of these practices harm elephants. Some trainers have tried to train elephants without the use of physical punishment. Ralph Helfer is known to have relied on gentleness and reward when training his animals, including elephants and lions. Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus retired its touring elephants in May 2016.


Attacks

Elephants can exhibit bouts of aggressive behaviour and engage in destructive actions against humans. In Africa, groups of adolescent elephants damaged homes in villages after cullings in the 1970s and 1980s. Because of the timing, these attacks have been interpreted as vindictive. In parts of India, male elephants regularly enter villages at night, destroying homes and killing people. Elephants killed around 300 people between 2000 and 2004 in Jharkhand while in Assam, 239 people were reportedly killed between 2001 and 2006. Local people have reported their belief that some elephants were drunk during their attacks, although officials have disputed this explanation. Purportedly drunk elephants attacked an Indian village a second time in December 2002, killing six people, which led to the killing of about 200 elephants by locals.


Cultural depictions

In many cultures, elephants represent strength, power, wisdom, longevity, stamina, leadership, sociability, nurturance and loyalty. Several cultural references emphasise the elephant's size and exotic uniqueness. For instance, a "white elephant" is a byword for something expensive, useless, and bizarre. The expression "elephant in the room" refers to an obvious truth that is ignored or otherwise unaddressed. The story of the blind men and an elephant teaches that reality can be observed from different perspectives. Elephants have been represented in art since Paleolithic times. Africa, in particular, contains many rock paintings and engravings of the animals, especially in the Sahara and southern Africa. In Asia, the animals are depicted as Motif (visual arts), motifs in Hinduism, Hindu and Buddhism, Buddhist shrines and temples. Elephants were often difficult to portray by people with no first-hand experience of them. The Ancient Rome, ancient Romans, who kept the animals in captivity, depicted anatomically accurate elephants on mosaics in Tunisia and Sicily. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, when Europeans had little to no access to the animals, elephants were portrayed more like fantasy creatures. They were often depicted with horse- or bovine-like bodies with trumpet-like trunks and tusks like a boar; some were even given hooves. Elephants were commonly featured in motifs by the stonemasons of the Gothic architecture, Gothic churches. As more elephants began to be sent to European kings as gifts during the 15th century, depictions of them became more accurate, including one made by Leonardo da Vinci. Despite this, some Europeans continued to portray them in a more stylised fashion. Max Ernst's 1921 Surrealism, surrealist painting, ''The Elephant Celebes,'' depicts an elephant as a silo with a trunk-like hose protruding from it. Elephants have been the subject of religious beliefs. The Mbuti people of central Africa believe that the souls of their dead ancestors resided in elephants.McNeely, pp. 158–60. Similar ideas existed among other African societies, who believed that their chiefs would be reincarnation, reincarnated as elephants. During the 10th century AD, the people of Igbo-Ukwu, near the Niger Delta, buried their leaders with elephant tusks. The animals' religious importance is only Totemism, totemic in Africa but is much more significant in Asia. In Sumatra, elephants have been associated with lightning. Likewise in Hinduism, they are linked with thunderstorms as Airavata, the father of all elephants, represents both lightning and rainbows. One of the most important Hindu deities, the elephant-headed Ganesha, is ranked equal with the supreme gods Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. Ganesha is associated with writers and merchants and it is believed that he can give people success as well as grant them their desires. In Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, Buddha is said to have been a White elephant (animal), white elephant reincarnated as a human. In Islamic tradition, the year 570 when Muhammad was born is known as the Year of the Elephant. Elephants were thought to be religious themselves by the Romans, who believed that they worshipped the sun and stars. Elephants are ubiquitous in Western
popular culture Popular culture (also called mass culture or pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of the cultural practice, practices, beliefs, and cultural objects, objects that are dominant or prevalent in a society at a given ...
as emblems of the exotic, especially since – as with the giraffe, hippopotamus and rhinoceros – there are no similar animals familiar to Western audiences. The use of the elephant as a symbol of the Republican Party (United States), U.S. Republican Party began with an Republican elephant, 1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast. As characters, elephants are most common in children's stories, in which they are generally cast as models of exemplary behaviour. They are typically surrogates for humans with ideal human values. Many stories tell of isolated young elephants returning to a close-knit community, such as "The Elephant's Child" from Rudyard Kipling's ''Just So Stories'', The Walt Disney Company, Disney's ''Dumbo,'' and Kathryn and Byron Jackson's ''The Saggy Baggy Elephant''. Other elephant heroes Anthropomorphism, given human qualities include Jean de Brunhoff's Babar the Elephant, Babar, David McKee's Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, Elmer, and Dr. Seuss's Horton the Elephant, Horton.


See also

* Animal track * Beehive fences use elephants' fear of bees to minimise conflict with humans * Desert elephant * Elephants' graveyard * Motty, captive hybrid of an Asian and African elephant * National Elephant Day (Thailand)


References


Bibliography

* ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** * * *


Further reading

* * Nance, Susan (2013). ''Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus''. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. * John Godfrey Saxe, Saxe, John Godfrey (1872). s:The Blindmen and the Elephant, "The Blindmen and the Elephant" at Wikisource. ''The Poems of John Godfrey Saxe''. *


External links


International Elephant Foundation
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