What are the elephant-related distinctions between African and Asian species?
Let’s discuss the differences between African and Asian elephants. The difference between an African elephant and an Asian elephant is difficult to distinguish unless you are familiar with the species.
Suppose you want to recognize the difference between these two species at a glance. In that case, a few physical characteristics distinguish them from one another – the form of the ears and the shape of the skull, in particular, are easy to distinguish. Along with these, there are several other distinctions between the two species to consider.
Elephants of the African savannah versus elephants of the African forest
Before we get into the speci-fics of the distinctions between the African elephant and the Asian elephant, it’s important to note that many people are under the impression that there are two distinct African elephant species to consider.
Scientists reclassified the African elephant species in 2000, dividing them into two subspecies: the enormous African savanna-elephant (also known as the African bush elephant) (Loxodonta africana) and the slightly smaller African forest elephant (Loxodonta africana) (Loxodonta cyclotis).
Although there are some minor anatomical and genetic variations between these two types of elephants, there is still debate over whether the differences are significant enough to justify designating them as two distinct species.
They are distinct in size and preferred habitats. However, they share more characteristics than the Asian elephant, a larger, more imposing animal with a different appearance (Elephas maximus).
At least ten physical traits distinguish the Asian elephant from the African elephant. The most notable morphological distinctions between the elephants may be observed in the shapes of their heads and ears and the size of the elephants.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the ten physical differences:
1. Head shape
When viewed from a distance, Asian and African elephants have significantly different head forms, making them easier to distinguish from one another.
A single dome shape forms the top of the head of African elephants, which are larger and rounder in condition than those of other elephants. A twin-domed, indented head is characteristic of Asian elephants, with an indent running up the centre of their heads.
2. Size & shape of ears
When observing an elephant from a distance, one may tell the difference between an African and an Asian elephant by the shape of their ears.
African elephants have substantially larger ears that are fashioned to resemble the African continent. The ears of Asian elephants are smaller and more semicircular.
To dissipate body heat, both Asian and African elephants utilize their ears. Still, African elephants live in hotter regions with more direct sunlight than Asian elephants, so they require more excellent heat dissipation. As a result, the ears are more prominent:
3. Size & weight
Africa has the largest of the two elephants, with bulls reaching up to 4 meters in the wild. The tallest Asian guys, on the other hand, do not exceed 3.5 meters in height. One exciting aspect of elephant height is that the African elephant is highest at the shoulder. In contrast, the Asian elephant is tallest at the back of the trunk.
Consequently, due to the variances in their sizes, adult African elephants can weigh anywhere between 4,000 and 8,000kg. In comparison, adult Asian elephants might weigh anywhere between 3000 and 6,000kg, depending on the species.
4. Appearance & size of tusks
Not all elephants are endowed with tusks. African elephants can have tusks on both their male and female sides, but Asian elephants only have tusks on their male side. Female Asian elephants have rudimentary tusks, known as tushes, which can be found on some male Asian elephants.
It is worth-noting, however, that not all male Asian elephants have tusks. While both sexes of African elephants normally have tusks, there are unusual cases in which they lack them entirely.
The tusks of African elephants are often larger than those of Asian elephants.
A ‘tusker’ elephant from Kenya, with enormous tusks on display.
5. The Trunk
The trunk of an African elephant has more visible rings on it than the trunk of an Asian elephant, and it is also less firm to the touch.
It is also important to note that their trunks are significantly different from one another — the African elephant trunk has two separate “fingers” that they utilize to pick up and control objects. When it comes to the end-of its trunk, the Asian elephant only has one ‘finger,’ which he makes up for by grasping objects against the underside of his trunk.
6. Lower lip shape
It is possible to distinguish a difference between the lower lips of the two elephants, albeit you will only detect this difference if you are up close. The elephant has its trunk elevated and its mouth open. A frightening position to be in!
The bottom lips of African elephants are small and spherical. In contrast, the lower lips of Asian elephants are long and tapering, as shown in the photo.
7. Skin texture
The skin of African elephants is more wrinkled than the skin of Asian elephants, which is smoother.
This is actually because the African elephant’s skin has more fissures, which have recently been proven to contain water, which helps keep the animals cool while also preventing dehydration in their dry surroundings, as previously stated. The cracks are generated due to the outermost layer of skin becoming thicker and bending until the brittle skin layer fractures due to the stress.
8. Number of toenails
There are five toes on each foot of every elephant, but not every toe is equipped with a nail. The number of toenails on the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant varies depending on the species:
- African forest elephants: On the front feet, there are five toenails, and on the back feet, there are 4.
- African bush elephants: The toenails on the front feet are four, and the toenails on the back feet are three.
- Asian elephants: On the front feet, there are five toenails, and on the back feet, there are 4.
There are also several physical distinctions between Asian and African elephants that you would be unlikely to notice on a game drive unless you were looking closely. The following are the two most prominent of these physical differences:
9. Number of ribs
Even though individual elephants differ in terms of the number of ribs, African elephants often have more ribs than Asian elephants, with up to 21 pairs of ribs on average, compared to the Asian-elephants’ average of 20 pairs of ribs.
10. Teeth shape
Elephant teeth are either pre-molars or molars in all cases. African elephant teeth are loxadont (or sloping), which gives them the scientific name Africana Loxadonta, which means “sloping tooth.” Asian-elephant teeth, on the other hand, have a diamond-shaped tooth profile that has been crushed.
The range and diet of African and Asian elephants vary significantly from one another, in addition to the physical distinctions listed above:
African and Asian elephants do not coexist in the wild since their ranges do not intersect. So they are never seen together in the wild.
Asian elephants can be found in wooded areas throughout Southern Asia – from Nepal to India and Sri Lanka – and throughout Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia. Asian elephants are also found in forested areas throughout Africa.
African elephants are found throughout the continent, including the rainforests of West and Central Africa and the savannas and deserts of Africa. In the Sahel region of Mali, the African elephant’s range extends to its northernmost point. A tiny nomadic herd of Mali elephants migrates circularly every year in search of water.
Both kinds of elephants consume many plant stuff available in their respective regions. However, their diets differ in several respects from one another.
Unlike African elephants, who operate as ecological filters by breaking down tree saplings and stripping them of their foliage, Asian elephants are more delicate eaters, preferring grasses, bamboo, and palms to tree saplings and other plant material. More information about what elephants eat can be found here.
Elephants, in theory, are among the world’s longest-living animals, outliving all other land mammals save humans. In practice, elephants are among the world’s most long-lived animals. Due to differences in size and physiology, African and Asian elephants have differing projected lifespans in the wild: African elephants have about 50 years, whereas Asian elephants have a lifespan of about 60 years. Elephants, in theory, are among the world’s longest-living animals, outliving all other land mammals save humans. In practice, elephants are among the world’s most long-lived animals. Due to differences in size and physiology, African and Asian elephants have differing projected lifespans in the wild: African elephants have about 50 years, whereas Asian elephants have a lifespan of about 60 years.
- African-elephants can live up to Seventy years
- Asian-elephants can live up to Forty Eight years
And this concludes this comparison of Asian and African elephants in their natural habitats. What do you think – are there any differences between the elephant species that you were unaware of? Or are there any more differences between them that we should include in this list?