Asian Elephants: Facts & Diet

Instructor: Dominic Corsini
This lesson teaches us about the Asian elephant. It includes factual information about the elephant's unique features, such as tusks, trunk, and ears. The lesson also describes the elephant's diet. A brief quiz is included.

Asian Elephant

Below is a picture. Now, here's a silly question. What is this a picture of?

Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant

If you said an elephant, then congratulations, you are correct! But, what if I asked you a more difficult question? What kind of elephant is this? You see, many people may realize this is an elephant. People may even know that elephants are the world's largest land animals. However, what they may not realize is that several species of elephant exist. Additionally, these species inhabit different areas of the world. That picture above? It's an Asian elephant, the topic of this lesson. The Asian elephant is a species found throughout Southeast Asia. Here is a map illustrating where the Asian elephant can be found.

Asian Elephant Range
Asian Elephant Range

The area highlighted in red indicates where wild populations of Asian elephants may exist. We say may exist because Asian elephants are highly endangered. Their population exists in small pockets throughout the range highlighted above. Yet, despite their decreased numbers, Asian elephants are unique for several reasons. Let's take a closer look at these reasons.

A Unique Elephant Species

When people picture an elephant, they often imagine a huge hulking animal. However, Asian elephants don't exactly fit this mold. Sure they're still big. But Asian elephants are actually smaller than their African counterparts. Also, and perhaps more interesting, is that not all Asian elephants have tusks. Tusks are actually elongated front teeth. They are found on animals such as elephants, walrus, and wild boar. In Asian elephants, only some males have tusks. No females do. This differs substantially from their African counterparts, where both male and female elephants possess tusks. Speaking of tusks, did you know that elephants are either right-tusked or left-tusked? In other words, they favor one tusk versus the other. It's analogous to handedness in people. Are you right- or left-handed? If you're like most people and are right-handed, you might be right-tusked as a male Asian elephant.

No discussion of elephants would be complete without addressing the elephant's trunk. Trunks perform many vital functions. These functions include manipulating/moving items (like we use our hands for), smelling, breathing, communicating, and drinking. Elephant trunks are also very strong. They contain thousands of different muscles. This allows the elephant to use its trunk for a range of activities, ranging from forcefully pulling down a tree to delicately spraying water on a calf, which is a baby elephant.

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