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There are two major types of elephants, the African Elephant (two species) and the Asian Elephant (one species). African Elephants are the biggest land animals. Asian elephants are slightly smaller.
Elephants have very strong social bonds and live in family groups headed by a female (called a cow). Males (called bulls) occasionally join the group. Elephants are excellent swimmers. They have few natural enemies except man, and they are in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat and poaching (they are killed for their ivory tusks -- two long, protruding upper teeth).
Anatomy: Elephants are from 8-10 feet (2.5-3 m) tall at the shoulder, weighing roughly 6 tons (5,400 kg). Males are larger than females. Elephants have very thick, wrinkled, gray-brown skin that is almost hairless. After a pregnancy of 22 months (the longest of all animals), calves (baby elephants) are born weighing 200 pounds (90 kg) - more than most human adults! The ears not only hear well, but also help the elephant lose excess heat, as hot blood flows near the surface.
Trunk: Elephants breathe through two nostrils at the end of their trunk, which is an extension of the nose. The trunk is also used to get water and food. To get water, the elephant sucks water into the trunk, then curls the trunk towards the mouth and squirts the water into it. The trunk has two prehensile (grasping) extensions at the tip, which it uses like a hand.
Diet: Elephants eat roots, grasses, leaves, fruit, and bark. They use their tusks and trunk to get food. These herbivores spend most of their time eating. Bulls can eat up to 300-600 pounds (130-260 kg) of food each day.
Classification: Elephants are classified as: Kingdom Animalia (animals), Phylum Chordata (having a notochord), Class Mammalia (mammals), Subclass Eutheria (placental mammals), Order Proboscidae, Suborder Elephantoidea, Family Elephantidae (mammoths and modern elephants), Genera and species: Loxodonta Africana (African savanna elephants), Loxodonta cyclotis (African forest elephants, discovered to be a separate species in 2001), and Elephas maximus (Asian elephants).
Printouts on Elephants and their Extinct Ancestors:
There are two types of elephants, the Indian Elephant and the African Elephant.
The African Elephant is the largest land animal.
The Asian Elephant is an endangered species.
K-3 Elephant Theme Page
Crafts and other elephant activities for young students.
Print out and take a quiz on elephants.
Mammoths were extinct elephants that lived during the last Ice Ages.
Mastodons were shaggy, tusked herbivores that lived during the last Ice Age.
My Elephant Book
A simple coloring book about elephants to print (for early readers). Color the parts of the elephant: trunk, ears, tusks, mouth, eyes, legs, feet, tail, and skin. Plus, color the cow, calf, and bull elephant.
The Elephant Book
A book about elephants to print (for fluent readers).
Proboscidean Mammals: Order Proboscidea
Proboscidea is an order of mammals that includes the elephants and their extinct relatives.
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