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African Elephant
 
The African Elephant is the biggest land animal alive today although there have certainly been bigger ones in the past.  The males grow up to around 4 metres high measured to the shoulder, and 6 tonnes in weight.  The females are smaller.

Brain

Elephants have the biggest brain of any land animal currently in existence.  It is more difficult to be sure if they have the biggest brain of any land animal ever.  The mighty dinosaurs had relatively small brains.  The brain size of the Elephant is most likely to be rivalled by some of their own relatives like the Mammoth.

Adult Elephants’ brains weigh about 6000 grams.  This compares with an adult Human brain if about 1400 grams.  Male Elephants have bigger brains than Females, but they also have a bigger body.  There is no apparent difference in intelligence between the two sexes of Elephants.

Although Elephants have the biggest brains of any land animal, their brain is smaller than the brain of the Sperm Whale.

Trunk

The Elephant’s trunk is a nose and they can breathe through it.  The trunk is also the animal’s equivalent of hands.  It can both manipulate small things sensitively, and can lift very heavy weights.

The trunk has about 100,000 muscles and it is reasonable to guess that considerable brain power is devoted to this organ.

The trunk can also be used to squirt water.

Water

Elephants are not aquatic, but they are good swimmers and divers.  Most mammals can swim, but not so many are good at diving.  There is a theory that Elephants used to be much more aquatic than they are now.

According to an account by Lieutenant Colonel Williams in his book, Elephant Bill, Elephants can hold their breath for about the same length of time as a Human.

When Elephants with their rider are crossing a deep river, the Elephant will sometimes submerge.  The rider knows that if he just stays on the Elephant will come up for air in time for the man to breathe as well.

This behaviour appears to be simply play, and the Elephant is not trying to drown the man.

Digging

Most animals do not dig for water.  In Australia, the Wallaroo and the Euro do, and in Africa, the Elephant does.

Threatened Species

Although there may be half a million African Elephants in the wild, it is considered to be a threatened species.  Poaching and habitat destruction are major threats.

Mega Fauna

The really big herbivorous animals have been eliminated from the ecosystems of several continents.  These animals had an important part to play in the ecosystems

North America

The Mastodon and most of the Buffalo (Bison) of North America have gone.  The Imperial Mammoth used to live in New York, but you never seem to see them nowadays.

Europe

Except for a trivial number of European Bison, Europe has largely lost its mega fauna.  In the past, Europe had things like mammoths and other big animals.

Asia

Asia still has some of its big animals.  Most notable of these is the Asiatic Elephant, but the numbers of these are declining and some of the other big herbivores like the Rhinoceros are close to extinction.

Australia

Australia probably never had any Elephants, but there were some big animals like the Diprotodon which grew to about 3 tons in weight.  This is smaller than a big elephant, but would rival a Hippopotamus.



 
 
 
 
 
Mammoth
 
Bison