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Asian Elephant Anatomy

May 21, 2015

Further to our commentary on elephant tusks, we thought we would share a few other aspects of the anatomy of Asian elephants. To first put everything in context, they have a lifespan of some seventy years, can weigh up to 6,000 pounds and can attain a height of ten feet at the shoulders.
By way of reference, we have a couple of relatively young elephants that happen to be wearing elephant polo saddles designed to provide a modest level of security in keeping their riders on top. Going from front to rear, the elephant trunk - having 60,000 muscles with no bone - serves as both nose and upper lip. It is strong enough to lift logs and nimble enough to pick up small objects. Their sense of smell is five times that of a bloodhound.

The elephants' ears enable it to hear communications with other elephants at distances of up to five miles at frequencies not heard by humans. The ears also indicate an elephant's age as the top of their ears fold over as the elephant grows older. Beware of the tail of an elephant as it can deliver a blow with the impact of a baseball bat.

Humans will often say that they have become the size of an elephant and are, therefore, fat. It is unlikely they are that size and fat would be a misnomer as elephants have minimal fatty tissue. After all, they are vegetarians. As they consume two to five hundred pounds of food per day, they need an extensive amount of digestive organs to process their food intake, hence their jumbo size. Moreover, as they virtually eat all of the time due to an inefficient digestive system, they sleep only two or three hours per day. In addition, the lungs of elephants are anchored to their ribs causing them breathing difficulty if they lie down too long.

I do not suppose you ever put your hand in an elephant's mouth though I guess I know the answer to that. Their tongue can change its shape from a ball to a wave or to a trough. Occasionally, an elephant will invite you to rub their tongue as a way of greeting one another.

Moreover, when you step back a bit and offer an elephant a banana, you will notice four massive teeth making you a bit careful about rubbing one's tongue.

Each molar weighs some four pounds and measures nine inches long. Over time, as molars decay, they are replaced by what is a built-in conveyor belt. However, once they have been through the six sets they have for life, their days are numbered.

Elephants have a very distinctive anatomy that suits them well. Beyond that, they have remarkable similarities to humans as they have an understanding of death, an ability to communicate, possess empathy, are highly intelligent and have a sense of humor. In fact, some of the humans I know are lacking in these behavioral characteristics.