Elephant (animal) – Information, habitat and characteristics

We explain everything about the elephant, its reproduction, feeding, habitat and other characteristics. Also, what types of elephants exist.

Elephants are the largest land animals in existence.

What are elephants?

The elephants They are a family of large quadruped mammals, famous for their large ears and prehensile trunk, as well as their white and long ivory tusks, in addition to being the most voluminous land animals that exist today in the world.

Currently three different species of elephants are known, each with its respective subspecies, and there are paleontological remains of extinct species, such as mammoths.

The immediate ancestors of these animals emerged around 50 to 60 million years ago, and they were particularly successful in colonizing all continents and habitats, except for Antarctica and Australia. Eventually, a predecessor known as palaeomastodon, which lived 40 to 25 million years ago, spawned the different species of elephants that we know today.

Humans have known elephants since ancient times and in certain geographies they were domesticated and incorporated into productive work, or used as a war mount. For example, the historical episode of the war between Ancient Rome and Carthage (known as the Punic Wars) is famous, in which Hannibal, the Phoenician general, crossed the Alps to invade Rome with an army mounted on elephants.

See also: Animals of the African savanna

Elephant characteristics

elephant characteristics
Elephants are often covered with a film of mud to protect them from sunlight.

In general, elephants are characterized by the following:

  • They are bulky animals, whose bodies they can be about 4 meters high and several tons in weight (on average about 7500 kg). Its brain, the largest of all land animals, weighs only 5 kg, and gives the elephant an intelligence comparable to a cetacean or some primates.
  • Its trunk, the best known feature of the species, has thousands of muscles (40,000 or 100,000 depending on the different sources) and is a sensitive extension of the nose, capable of perceiving an immense range of distant smells (elephants have the best sense of smell of all species), picking up food from the ground, inhaling and pouring water into your mouth or on your body to cool off, or emit sounds of various ranges, including infrasonic.
  • At the same time, they have huge auricles, which allow them a keen sense of hearing. On the other hand, they have poor vision, with their eyes on the sides of the head, which makes them particularly sensitive to sudden and sudden movements, to which they tend to respond aggressively.
  • Males of the species possess two gigantic ivory tusks, prolongation of their incisor teeth, which protrude from their upper jaw and that these animals use to make their way through the bush, dig in the ground, mark their territory or attack and defend themselves, if necessary. Compounds of ivory, they have been highly valued in history and are one reason why they have been so extensively hunted.
  • His skin is thick and wrinkled, greyish or brownish in color, and have sparse, sparse fur. To avoid dehydration, they usually spend a lot of time in the water, and cover themselves with a film of mud to protect them from sunlight.
  • They are traditionally attributed a good memory, which seems to be true, and they are known to have rich social interaction, with abundant gestures of empathy, compassion, play, primitive use of tools, and self-recognition.
  • It is also said that they fear mice (which is totally false), and that they constitute their own cemeteries. The latter may be a misinterpretation of the fact that dying elephants instinctively seek water, which is why they tend to leave their bodies in similar regions. However yeah elephants have been seen recognizing the remains of their species among those of other, and play with them as if paying some kind of tribute.

Where do elephants live?

The current species of elephants live in warm areas of forests, grasslands and savannas, in Africa and certain regions of Asia like India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. In fact, it is usually distinguished between the species according to their usual home of residence: African elephants and Asian elephants, since they have different physical features.

The elephants live in herds, led by the oldest females, that is, the matriarchs, and the herds are made up of several family groups, in which there are usually between two and eight individuals.

What do elephants eat?

The elephants They are herbivores, and their diet consists mainly of herbs, seeds, bark and other plant fibers.

How do elephants reproduce?

elephant reproduction
Newborn elephants weigh more than 100 kilograms.

Like all other mammals, elephants reproduce sexually and viviparously, but have long gestation periods (in some species they can reach 22 months, and once every four or five years) at the end of which a single offspring is born, whose initial weight ranges from 118 kg.

Elephants are very jealous of their young, and in a herd there can be between 20 and 40 matriarchs with their respective young. The males, on the other hand, leave the herd early, between their 10 and 14 years of age.

How long do elephants live?

The average life expectancy of the elephant ranges between 60 and 80 years old.

Types of elephants

As we said before, elephants are classified into three species, grouped into two different genera, which we can summarize as follows:

  • African elephants (gender Loxodonta): two distinct species, which are the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), and the African jungle elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis).
  • Asian elephants (gender Elephas): a single species that is in turn classified into three current subspecies: the Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus), the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) and the Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus).

It is important to note that in some zoological classifications, a distinction is made between the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) and two other subspecies: the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) and the Malaysian elephant (Elephas maximus hirsutus). But there is still debate in the scientific community about it.