Featured Level B Unit 4

Majestic Mammals

by Nathan Bowen, age 13

  The elephant, known as one of the most majestic mammals of the arid plains of Africa and the lush jungles of Asia, is recognized by conservationists and poachers alike for its prized ivory tusks. The elephant’s tusks are not just ivory protruding from the skull, they are actually teeth, which are called incisors. The chief purpose that these long teeth fulfill is digging for food and water. Since these prodigious teeth can sustain upwards of two thousand pounds, it makes the tusks a lethal weapon for defense against other elephants as well as predators. Elephants have an average of four molars at a time, some of which can weigh upwards of 8.5 pounds. These molars gradually wear down and fall out but, unlike the teeth of humans, they can grow back. The replacing process of the teeth only last for six sets. The final set comes in when the elephant reaches the age of forty. Because they act as grindstones, the molars help the elephant grind down food so that it can enter the digestive tract with their weight helping the process speed along. These enormous ivory tools help the elephant survive in the harsh environments where it resides.

      While it may look amusing, the elephant’s trunk actually serves many unusual purposes. The trunk is principally known to the ordinary person as the nose, but it also serves as the elephant’s upper lip. The largest trunk size ever recorded was on an adult male. It measured five feet long and weighed almost three-hundred pounds. The elephant uses its trunk to breathe, smell, and hydrate itself. The trunk is vital because it is used to induce food and water into the digestive tract. It can also contain 1.5 gallons of liquid. The trunk, with over 150,000 muscle units, which are set up in hydrostat form, can lift a log weighing over six hundred pounds. Elephants can also use their versatile trunk as a means to communicate with other elephants. The trunk, although humorous in looks and antics, is used for various important purposes, some of which are still not known to this day.

      Although they may not look like it, elephants rank high in intelligence compared to the other wild creatures that reside in this world. Because their minds are so complex, elephants have the ability to learn behaviors and communication. Some African elephants can identify as many as twenty-five calls, each with specific meaning. The leading matriarch, who is also known as the head female, holds the knowledge needed to survive for the whole family. She can locate food and water even in severe drought conditions on the arid plains of the desert. Her knowledge is then passed down to new, inexperienced females, one of which will become the leading matriarch for the family. Elephants have been known to effortlessly retain knowledge that has been taught to them in captivity. Some even have the ability to learn over forty voice commands. These highly intelligent, majestic mammals have earned a prominent name as some of the most intellectual animals that reside in the world today.