The largest land animals on earth, African elephants can weigh up to 8 tons. The ears of Asian elephants differ from the African species. The ears of Asian elephants are smaller and straight at the bottom. In contrast, African elephants have large fan-shape ears. An elephant’s ears help radiate heat to keep the animals cool. All African elephants have tusks, including females. In contrast, only some Asian male elephants have tusks. Tusks are an elephant’s incisor teeth. Elephants are either right- or left-tusked, just like humans are right- or left-handed. The one they use more is usually smaller because of wear and tear. Elephants use their tusks to dig for food and water and strip bark from trees. Males also use the tusks to battle each other. Ivory is valuable to humans, and many elephants have been killed for their tusks. The total number of teeth an elephant has is 24 (six in each half jaw). Elephants have four molars. Each molar can weigh about 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) and is the size of a brick. Elephants can go through up to six sets of molars in its lifetime. New teeth don’t erupt vertically, like in humans (and most mammals). Instead, they grow in from behind and push the old worn-out teeth forward and out. All elephants have five toes on their forefeet. But the number of toes on their hind feet differ. Asian elephants have four toes on their hind feet and African elephant have three. Elephants have long pregnancies. The gestation period for elephants is 22 months, the longest of any mammal. An elephant’s trunk is a long nose, with two nostrils at the end that suck air up the long nasal passages and into the lungs. Elephants use their trunks to drink. But the trunks are not like a straw, and the water doesn’t go all the way up the nose. Rather, an elephant will suck water part way up the trunk, then curls it toward its mouth, tilt its head up, and let the water from the trunk pour in.
An elephant’s trunk is so strong it can push down trees. Its trunk is also very agile. It can pick up a single piece of straw. Elephants =use their trunk like we use our hands: to grab, hold, pick up, reach, touch, pull, push, and throw. An African elephant’s trunk has two fingerlike features on the end that they use to grab small items. In contrast, the trunk of Asian elephants have just one. Their trunks have no bones or cartilage. An elephant’s trunk has over 100,000 muscles.