Elephants are large mammals of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea.
The Proboscidea are a taxonomic order of afrotherian mammals containing one living family, Elephantidae, and several extinct families.
Two species are traditionally recognised, the African elephant and the Asian elephant, although some evidence suggests that African bush elephants and African forest elephants are separate species (L.
The Asian or Asiatic elephant is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east.
African elephants are elephants of the genus Loxodonta, from Greek λοξός + ὀδούς.
africana and L. cyclotis respectively).
Elephants are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
South Asia or Southern Asia is a term used to represent the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan SAARC countries and, for some authorities, adjoining countries to the west and east.
Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia.
Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara desert.
Elephantidae is the only surviving family of the order Proboscidea; other, now extinct, members of the order include deinotheres, gomphotheres, mammoths, and mastodons.
Mastodons are any species of extinct mammutid proboscideans in the genus Mammut, distantly related to elephants, that inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 to 11,000 years ago.
Deinotheriidae is a family of prehistoric elephant-like proboscideans that lived during the Cenozoic era, first appearing in Africa, then spreading across southern Asia and Europe.
A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus, proboscideans commonly equipped with long, curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair.
Male African elephants are the largest extant terrestrial animals and can reach a height of 4 m and weigh 7,000 kg.
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land, as compared with aquatic animals, which live predominantly or entirely in the water, or amphibians, which rely on a combination of aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
All elephants have several distinctive features, the most notable of which is a long trunk or proboscis, used for many purposes, particularly breathing, lifting water and grasping objects.
A proboscis is an elongated appendage from the head of an animal, either a vertebrate or an invertebrate.
Their incisors grow into tusks, which can serve as weapons and as tools for moving objects and digging.
Tusks are elongated, continuously growing front teeth, usually but not always in pairs, that protrude well beyond the mouth of certain mammal species.
Incisors are the front teeth present in most heterodont mammals.
Elephants' large ear flaps help to control their body temperature.
Their pillar-like legs can carry their great weight.
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below.
African elephants have larger ears and concave backs while Asian elephants have smaller ears and convex or level backs.
Elephants are herbivorous and can be found in different habitats including savannahs, forests, deserts and marshes.
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example foliage, for the main component of its diet.
A savanna or savannah is a grassland ecosystem characterised by the trees being sufficiently widely spaced so that the canopy does not close.
A desert is a barren area of land where little precipitation occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life.
They prefer to stay near water.
They are considered to be keystone species due to their impact on their environments.
A keystone species is a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance.
Other animals tend to keep their distance where predators such as lions, tigers, hyenas, and wild dogs usually target only the young elephants.
The biological family Canidae is a lineage of carnivorans that includes domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and many other extant and extinct dog-like mammals.
The tiger is the largest cat species, most recognisable for their pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with a lighter underside.
The African wild dog, African hunting dog, or African painted dog is a canid native to Sub-Saharan Africa.
Females tend to live in family groups, which can consist of one female with her calves or several related females with offspring.
The groups are led by an individual known as the matriarch, often the oldest cow.
Matriarchy is a social system in which females hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property at the specific exclusion of men, at least to a large degree.
Elephants have a fission–fusion society in which multiple family groups come together to socialise.
In ethology, a fission–fusion society is one in which the size and composition of the social group change as time passes and animals move throughout the environment; animals merge —e.g. sleeping in one place—or split —e.g. foraging in small groups during the day.
Males leave their family groups when they reach puberty, and may live alone or with other males.
Adult bulls mostly interact with family groups when looking for a mate and enter a state of increased testosterone and aggression known as musth, which helps them gain dominance and reproductive success.
Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones.
Dominance in ethology is an "individual's preferential access to resources over another."
Testosterone is a medication and naturally occurring steroid hormone.