The African elephant is a massive regal animal standing at a height of 10 to 13 feet, and weighing as much as 6 – 7 tons, with an average length of about 24 feet. The males are naturally bigger than the females and they are found living in savannahs, grasslands, and manmade nature parks.
This animal as adapted over the years to living in quite different conditions by evolving many physical and biological characteristics.
One of its most noticeable characteristics is his huge flap ears. These act as cooling fans, flapping to cool the body from the hot sweltering African heat. The ears contain many blood vessels, so while flapping helps; these blood vessels are additionally able to give off heat, cooling the body from the inside.
They have excellent hearing, which helps keep them safe from oncoming predators.
The elephant is a heavy creature. The grasslands do not always have grass cushioning the rough terrain. Elephants have adapted to this by having fibrous tissue pad their toes, which protect their toe bones from being injured.
Both the males and females have tusks. In mammals, tusks are usually enlarged canine teeth. However, in the case of elephants they are actually lengthy incisors that perform much the same way as normal teeth.
The tusk is ivory in color and made of dentine and enamel. These never stop growing but an interesting adaptation has resulted because humans have been hunting elephants for their ivory tusks for centuries.
These tusks do not grow as large as they used to, because the ‘big tusk gene’ is becoming increasingly less common, to protect these species from being hunted.
However, the elephant’s tusk as mentioned earlier performs the same task as normal teeth, but it does not have a coat of dental enamel that protects normal teeth. The tusks are used for many different purposes. They use it to life trees and move vegetation aside.
Tusks are also helpful for digging for water, roots, and salts and even used as levers when moving branches, and used as weapons in battle.
The elephant also has two rows of normal teeth structured in a horizontal fashion (unlike other animals who have their teeth structured vertically), and they use teeth for chewing the large amounts of vegetation they take in on a daily basis.
Their large strong trunks have special muscles at the tip. They use the trunk like an arm, helping them to grab large vegetation by curling the trunk around them, and use it to suck water much like a straw. They suck the water through the trunk and squirt it into their mouths.