There are two living
genera of elephants. These are
African Loxodonta africanus, and
Asian elephants Elephas maximus.
An elephant's most
obvious part is the trunk. The trunk is a very long
nose, made from the upper lip. An elephant uses its trunk to grab
objects such as
food. Though the rest of an elephant's
hide is strong and thick, its trunk is very soft and sensitive. Elephants avoid
Acacia trees with
ants because they can bite the inside of an elephant's trunk.
Elephants also have
tusks. Tusks are large teeth coming out of their
upper jaws. A lot of
ivory comes from elephant tusks. Ivory
traders killed many elephants, so now hunting them is
illegal. The trunk is also used when it trumpets. The elephant usually stands still, raises its trunk, and blows. This is a
signal to other elephants and wildlife.
African elephants are larger and have bigger ears. They are
grazers who still do quite a lot of browsing: they eat
grass. These big ears have many
veins, which carry
blood throughout the body. Biologists think that the blood going through their ears helps African elephants to cool off. The weather is hotter in
Africa than in Asia, so it is hard for elephants to stay cool. Female African elephants have tusks, but female Asian elephants do not. African elephants have a low place in their back. African elephants have two "fingers" at the end of their trunks, but Asian elephants only have one. Indian elephants eat mainly
Grass wears down their teeth because it has a high concentration of
silica and is very
 Elephants use their teeth in sequence, not all at once. This means that, at any time, they only have one tooth in each jaw, a total of four.
In total, they have 24 teeth: 12 front teeth, called
premolars, and 12 back teeth, called
molars. When the last molar wears out, the elephant dies because it cannot eat. They can live for about 70 years. But in a
circus, people can keep elephants alive by feeding them soft food.
Some African elephants live on the
savanna while others live in the
forest. Today, many people think these are different species. Scientists named the forest group Loxodonta cyclotis and the savanna group Loxodonta africanus.