Is there anyone in the world who would not be impressed by the mighty yet gentle giant, the elephant? There are three living species of elephants, the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. Our favourite pachyderms are the largest existing land animals, and the lifespan of an elephant is 48 years for Asian elephants and 60 to 70 years for their African cousins.
They are the only surviving members of the family Elephantidae, with Mammoths resembling Asian elephants and Mastodons resembling African elephants. If this has gotten you curious, then let’s dive in and learn some unique and unknown elephant facts.
Here are 10 amazing facts about elephants!
Did you know you can get an idea of which species of elephant you’re looking at from its ears? While the ears of the African elephant are huge and said to look like the African continent, the ears of Asian elephants are formed like the Indian subcontinent! Another distinction is that African elephants have two ‘fingers’ at the tip of their trunks, though Asian elephants have only one.
Elephant trunks have roughly 40,000 muscles, made up of 150,000 muscle fascicles (the smaller unit of muscles), making their trunks possibly the most sensitive organ among mammals. Asian elephants can shell a nut, blow its shell out and eat the nut, all with their trunks! These grand animals also utilise their trunk as a snorkel while swimming and can store up to 8 litres of water in them.
Elephant tusks are really long incisor teeth that begin growing when the elephant turns two years old. They keep developing throughout the elephant’s life and grow to be extremely striking. Tusks are made mainly of dentine, a hard, thick, hard tissue, and the whole tusk is wrapped in enamel, the hardest animal tissue. This is the part of the tusk that deals with the most wear and tear.
An elephant’s skin is around 2.5 cm thick, and the folds and kinks in their skin can hold up to 10 times more water than flat skin. This exceptional capacity assists with the intensity of the tropical heat and lets them cool down easily.
Elephants are enthusiastic sharers! These animals communicate in different ways like trumpet calls, infrasounds (imperceptible to people), non-verbal communication, fragrance, and of course, through contact. One of the most exceptional ways through which they convey messages is seismic signals that create vibrations in the ground, which the elephants detect through their feet.
Elephants need to eat up to around 150kg of food each day, and that implies they can spend up to three-quarters of their day simply eating! Grass, leaves, bushes, natural products, roots, and when it’s especially dry, even the woody parts like twigs, branches and barks make up an elephant’s diet.
An elephant’s temporal lobe, or the part of the brain associated with memory, is much larger and denser than that of humans. This means they have amazing memories. This is where the phrase, ‘Elephants never forget,’ comes from. Their eyesight is much poorer than other senses, and they heavily rely on their sense of smell, recognising other elephants by their scent even after years.
Elephants are genuine survivalists. Elephant calves can stand within 20 minutes of birth and walk soon. Within two days, they can stay aware of the grown-ups in their group and follow their lead. Elephants travel immense distances in search of food, and these survival tactics help them keep safe.
In a funny twist, the closest living relative to elephants is the Rock Hyrax, an animal that is the size of a large guinea pig with an overbite! Their other close relatives include manatees and rhinoceroses. The elephant, hyrax and manatee are all descendants of common hooved ancestors from the group of mammals known as Tethytheria, who went extinct around 50 million years ago.
Did you like reading these interesting facts about elephants? Head over to the articles below to read more on the animal kingdom!
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