These two elephant species belong to different genuses and have many distinguishing features between them.
The word Elephant in latin (as ‘ele’ and ‘phant’) means the ‘Huge Arch’. Most elephants live in the grasslands of Africa and in the forests of Asia although elephants can live in nearly any habitat that has adequate quantities of food and water. Elephants live in groups called ‘herds’. The herd is usually made up of ten females and their young.
The elephant is the largest animal that lives on land. Elephants are warm-blooded mammals and members of the ‘Pachyderm’ species which means ‘thick-skinned animals’. Elephants form the family ‘Elephantidae’. Male elephants can grow to be 13 feet tall. That is more than twice as tall as 2 tall human beings. Elephants can weigh as much as a single decker bus – between 10 and 14 thousand pounds.
African vs Asian Elephant Similarities
Regardless of where elephants live, their social behaviours and social structures remain largely the same. The African elephant and the Asian elephant are the only two surviving species of what was in prehistoric times a diverse and populus group of large mammals. While Asian elephants and African elephants have a lot in common, they differ slightly in appearance and each faces different threats to its survival.
Elephants are amazing creatures. They cry, play, laugh and have incredible memories. Elephants are sensitive to fellow animals where even if a baby elephant complains, the entire family of elephants will rumble and go over to touch and care for it.
The African Elephant is an intelligent animal. Experiments with reasoning and learning show that they are the smartest ungulates together with their Asian cousins. This is mostly due to their large brain.
Male elephants beyond the age of maturity are with the herd only during mating. Herds have been known to travel ten miles or more to look for food and water. When elephants travel, they walk very quietly in single file. Young elephants (calves) are led by the older elephants with their tails. Elephant calves stay close to their mothers at all times. The entire herd will protect the young ones if there is any sign of danger. A herd ambles along at about 4 miles per hour and can charge at more than 25 miles per hour. Elephants cannot run or jump. They can however, walk very fast and climb.
Elephants smell, drink, eat and wash themselves with their long trunks. An elephants trunk is the most versatile of all mammalian creations being used as a nose, arm, hand and multipurpose tool. It is powerful enough to kill a lion with a single swipe, yet the finger-like lobes at the end are adept enough to pluck a feather from the ground. The trunk is boneless and is composed of an estimated 40 000 muscles.
Elephants love water and are very good swimmers. When elephants get hot, they swim in lakes or rivers, or give themselves showers using their long trunks. An elephant can also cool off by rolling in a shady bed of mud.
Elephants can live to be a good age. On average, an elephant lives between 50 and 70 years although the oldest living elephant was recorded to have reached 82 years old. His name was ‘Raja’ and he lived in captivity in Sri Lanka.
An elephant spends around 16 hours a day eating, drinking, bathing, dusting, wallowing, playing and 3 – 5 hours resting. As an elephant only digests some 40 percent of what it eats, it needs a tremendous amount of vegetation (approximately 5 percent of its body weight per day) and about 30 to 50 gallons of water. A young elephant must learn how to draw water up into its trunk and then pour it into its mouth. Elephants eat an extremely varied vegetarian diet, including grass, leaves, twigs, bark, fruit and seed pods.
Favoured foods include: Bananas, bamboo, berries, mangoes, coconuts, corn, jungle shrubs, palm fruits, sugar cane, wood apples and wild rice.
Elephants eat grass, small branches and bark from trees. Elephants especially like leaves from the top branches. They get the leaves by pushing down the trees with their large heads and bodies, then they get the bark by scraping it with their sharp tusks.
African vs Asian Elephant Differences
The Asian Elephant (Elephas Maximus),is found primarily in large parts of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indochina and parts of Indonesia. The Asian elephant is considered endangered, with between 25,600 and 32,750 individuals left in the wild.
The African elephant, (Loxodonta Africana) lives in the rainforests of West and Central Africa, and through the savannas and deserts of Africa.
The main differences between these two Elephant species can be seen in their anatomy.
Head, Trunk & Mouth
The Asian elephant has an large domed head with relatively small ears, an arched back and a single prehensile finger that is located at the tip of the trunk.
An Asian Elephant has a low neck which is curved upwards and protruding foreheads which appears as two noticeable bumps. Their under lip is long, narrow and pointed. In contrast to the Asian elephants protruding forehead, the African elephants forehead is flat without any bumps and slopes down smoothly towards its trunk. Their underlip is short, broad and rounded.
African elephants have 2 prehensile fingers at the tip of their trunks whereas the Asian elephant only has one.
The ridges of an African elephants teeth are coarser and fewer than those of the Asian elephant.
Elephants tusks are elongated upper incisor teeth, which grow continuously throughout the elephants life. They are not always an exact match, as this depends on which side they favour much like left and right-handed humans.
Elephants have tusks that are long teeth made of ivory. Their tusks help them get food and carry heavy objects. All elephants do not have tusks. Only the male Asian elephants have tusks whereas the male and female African elephants both have tusks. Both female and male African elephants have tusks which are thick and curved forward.
The male Asian elephants have tusks and the females have ‘tushes’, which are short second incisors that just stick out beyond the upper lip.
An Asian elephants skin is less wrinkled than the African elephants and only about 50% of Asian Elephant bulls have long tusks.
An elephants ears are covered in veins, which form distinct and unique patterns which can be used to identify individuals – much like human fingerprints. An elephants ears are packed with blood vessels and when flapped, they quickly lower the animals body temperature. This swiftly circulating blood is cooled by about 9 degrees Fahrenheit while in the elephants ear.
An African Elephants neck is quite high and slopes down towards its straight back. African elephants are more wrinkled and have much larger ears than the Asian elephant.
African elephants are also larger in size as compared to male and female Asian elephants. The largest African elephants recorded weight was over 9 tons and it stood more than 12 feet high at the shoulder. The African elephants average weight is up to 7 tons, about the equivalent of 78 adult human males weighing an average of 90 kilograms each.
A large male Asian elephant can typically weigh 6 tons and measure 10 feet in height at the shoulder.
The African bush elephant has 4 toenails on the front feet and 3 on the back feet whereas Asian elephants have 5 toenails on the front feet and 4 on the back feet
Male Asian elephants are quite solitary and only join the herd for mating seasons. Sometimes, male elephants will duel and the winner becomes the primary mating partner for the whole herd. The female Asian elephants run away for a short while, as part of a ritual, before mating with the victorious mate. The mating couple then remain together for around 3 weeks before the male heads off to the bachelor herd.
The gestation period of the female Asian elephant is between 19 and 22 months. When she gives birth, the other herd females form a circle around the pregnant cow. She assumes a squatting position while giving birth and the birth takes around 2 hours. Just 2 hours after birth the calf can stand up and begins to suckle the mother.
An African elephant’s gestation (conception to birth) is 23 months, slightly longer than in the Asian elephant.
African Elephant Pictures
Asian Elephant Pictures