Three classes of proboscideans are known (order of placental mammals, which includes elephants). Two live on the African continent: the Lexodonta cyclotis (forest elephant) and the Lexodonta africana (savanna elephant), but both are generically grouped as African elephants as they differ only in size. The third species is the Elephas maximus or Asian elephant or Indian elephant (although it is in more Asian countries), the largest mammal in Asia.
These elephants are the largest land animals and mammals on Earth, second only to the blue whale, but there are subtle differences between them.
Habitat of the African and Asian elephants
One of the primary differences between these animals is their habitat.
African elephant habitat
The African elephants extend their habitat throughout the African continent, except the north and the desert. These animals are constantly on the move through the jungle or forest and the savannah and travel great distances in search of water and food.
Asian elephant habitat
On the contrary, the Asian elephant is found concentrated in a few points in Southeast Asia, in countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Borneo, Sumatra or Bangladesh. However, many centuries ago these elephants extended further north, reaching China, but with the passage of time they have been relegated to other territories due to the destruction of their habitat and their hunting.
Differences between African and Asian elephants: The Size
The African elephant is the largest land animal, measuring up to 3.5 meters high and almost 7 meters long and weighing between 5 and 6 tons.
For its part, the Asian elephant is somewhat smaller, reaching 2 meters in height and weighing up to 5 tons. Asian elephants are also large animals, but not as large as the African.
Different tusks and trunk
There are differences in the size of the tusks between the two species, thus in the African elephant both the females and the males have long ivory tusks and in the Asian elephant only the males have tusks, while in the females they do not all grow and they are usually small in size.
Another major difference between the two elephants is the final section of their trunk, in the Asian elephant’s trunk it has one movable lobe , while the African has two. Therefore, the African elephant’s trunk looks like a hand and makes it easier for him to grasp objects. Both types of elephants move and grasp objects to bring them to their mouths with both types of trunks without problems. They also collect water to drink.
The ears of African and Asian elephants are different
The Asian elephant’s ears are rounded and small compared to its body, which barely covers the entire head. In contrast, the African elephant’s ears are larger and reach further behind the shoulders.
The reason for this difference can be found in the use: African elephants use their ears to dissipate body heat and use them as a fan, since on the African continent they live in more extreme conditions than in Asia.
The shape of your shoulders and back
Another difference that not many people know of these two large mammals is in the back and in the shoulders. In the Asian elephant, the back is arched , so its back is the highest part of its body. In contrast, the African elephant has a straighter back and descends from the shoulders. Behind your head is the highest area of your back, which can even give the impression of being sunken.
The legs and tail of Asian and African elephants
The main difference in the legs of African and Asian elephants is in their toes: the African elephant has 4 or 5 toes on the front legs and 3 on the back, while the Asian elephant has 5 on the front and 4 on the back. .
The tail is very similar in the two species, so it is not easy to differentiate them just because of this. The Asian elephant has a longer tail in relation to the body than the African.
Conservation status of elephants
African and Asian elephants are in danger of extinction. Both species are endangered mainly due to the following main causes:
- Poaching , as it kills them to use ivory for their tusks.
- Another threat to their conservation is the destruction of their habitat, either to create pastures for livestock or to build houses for people.
- Global pollution.
Similarities between African and Asian elephants
Main similarities of African and Asian elephants :
- Both species are the largest land-dwelling mammals on our planet.
- They are intelligent and sociable animals .
- Both species live in groups, but are also sociable with other animals.
- With regard to their intelligence, the “elephant memory” is known, since they are capable of remembering specific people and animals, individuals, and places.
- What the elephants of these two species eat is also a similarity, as they are both herbivores and eat large amounts of vegetation on a daily basis.
Where do elephants live and what do they eat?
Elephants are descendants of the mammoth and are currently the largest land animals on the planet. They stand out for having a long, mobile and sensitive trunk and for their impressive beauty and colossal size. However, they are also known to be part of the list of endangered animals, mainly for hunting, either for their meat or for ivory.
The elephant is a herbivorous mammal, intelligent, with a lot of memory, sociable and protective of its herd. Scientifically called Elephantidae , the elephant belongs to the group of pachyderms , which also includes other popularly known species such as the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the tapir and the wild boar.
One of its main tools, as well as its most characteristic physical part, is its long trunk . With no bone structure but with over 350,000 muscles, this tool allows you to reach high limbs to feed, hydrate, groom yourself, and even communicate. For almost all the daily activities that elephants carry out they need their trunks.
Traits and main characteristics of elephants
- Speed: despite their girth, elephants can reach a speed of 40 km / h.
- Life expectancy: between 40 and 60 years in freedom, although in certain cases they can reach up to 90 years.
- Reproduction: Females have young every 4 to 5 years, after 22 months of gestation, and care for their young for years, often assisted by other females in the herd.
- Communication: elephants use low-frequency sounds to communicate with each other, as well as their trunk and touch, very important for this species. They greet each other, for example, approaching and twisting their trunks.
- Memory: these animals stand out for their surprising memory. Their brain, the largest in the animal kingdom, allows them to remember the members of their group throughout their lives, even if they do not live with them.
- Emotions: They help and collaborate between members and caress and stay with deceased members for days.
Types of elephants: the two living species
Although in the past there were more than 300 species of elephants , today only two types persist , the African and the Asian. Both types share many characteristics, such as being strong, large, heavy, powerful animals with long trunks and thick, wrinkled skin with little hair.
There are clear differences between the two species:
African elephant ( Loxodonta africana and Loxodonta cyclotis )
- Dimensions: approximately 3 meters high and 7 meters long.
- Weight: up to 8 tons.
- Ears: very large fan-shaped ears.
- Fangs: both males and females have long, curved fangs.
- Toes: these types of elephants have five toes on the front legs and three on the back.
- Threat level: vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List. One of their biggest threats is the ivory trade for their tusks.
- Subspecies: savanna elephant and jungle elephant.
Asian elephant ( Elephas maximus)
- Dimensions: approximately 2.5 meters high and 6 meters long.
- Weight: between 5 and 6 tons.
- Ears: much smaller than those of Africans and with a straighter shape.
- Fangs: Females do not have fangs and only some males have them.
- Fingers: five fingers in the front and four in the back.
- Threat level: endangered. Some of the causes of their precarious situation are due to the destruction of their habitat and hunting.
- Subspecies: none.
Where elephants live
First, the roughly 400,000 African elephants estimated to live in the wild need large tracts of land to live , as well as an abundance of food and water. Specifically, these pachyderms are divided into two subspecies, the savanna elephants, which are the most common and largest, and the jungle elephants. The former are better used to living in areas with hot climates, such as the savannah , where their huge ears help them dissipate heat and prevent overheating, while the latter tend to inhabit slightly colder and more humid places, such as forests and jungles.
On the other hand, it is estimated that there are currently about 50,000 Asian elephants in a state of freedom. This number of specimens is distributed in areas typical of the regions of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sumatra and Borneo, although some specimens can also be found in colder areas, such as in the southern Himalayas or near the Yangtze River. In any case, the conditions of the areas where they live are usually leafy areas with abundant rainfall, bushes and low vegetation.
In both cases, groups of elephants are organized into social structures with a leading matriarch, the oldest and wisest female of the group, along with other females and their young, who are usually no more than one or two meters apart. mothers. Thus, females show to be social animals, supportive, protective and lovers of family life. Males, on the other hand, tend to separate to live in solitude when they reach adolescence, although they can also be grouped with other males, but the ties that unite them are not as close as in the case of females.
What elephants eat
Both subclasses of elephants are herbivorous species , meaning that they eat tree leaves, soft bark, fruits, herbs, stems, roots, and all kinds of plant foods. Given their large size, it is not uncommon for them to need to eat huge amounts of food on a daily basis. Elephants eat between 120 and 130 kilos of food daily and spend approximately 13 hours of their time in the feeding process.
Notably, elephant mothers consume even greater amounts of food given their milk production needs. For their part, the young, weighing up to 100 kg at birth, suckle from their parents for up to three years, although they can occasionally eat some types of plants.
Once again, the elephant’s trunk, which is made up of the nose and upper lip, takes on great prominence in the task of feeding. They use it to feel, drink, smell and select the most tender and appetizing foods, as if it were a hand-nose. They also use their strength and size to obtain food, uprooting or shaking trees or even standing up to reach certain branches.
On the other hand, elephants also have the need to cool off and drink plenty of water, ingesting up to 10 liters of water per drink, 140 liters a day. That is why these animals need to always be close to water sources to supply their needs.
In general, it is very common to see elephants inspecting the terrain to select their food, although in the end they put almost anything in their mouths, they love to eat! However, they have a problem, although their large molars allow them to chew food into a paste, in many cases they have certain digestive difficulties, especially older elephants, making it difficult for them to fully digest food. For this reason, it is common to see remains of plant fibers and even whole leaves in the stool. Because of this, it is also common to see elephants rummage through their own feces and other individuals in search of more food, especially in areas where there may be times of food shortage, such as some in Africa.