African Bush Elephant
(Loxodonta africana) #85-33

Picture of the animal

Distribution map

Whole brain image

Whole brain photographs
• Rotating brain cast

Coronal section through middle of brain
• Movie Atlas
• Picture Atlas

Physical characteristics and distribution

African Elephants are the largest living terrestrial mammals. Their big ears serve to dissipate body heat and to brush away insects from their eyes. The upper incisors form tusks and the trunk, or proboscis, has two fingerlike processes at the tip. The trunk is extremely sensitive to touch and can be used to feel and manipulate and grasp objects and materials with great accuracy, precision and strength. The trunk and the nostrils of elephants is used for breathing, eating, and drinking. They water into the trunk, and then squirts it into their mouth. With the tip of their trunk, elephants separates bits of grass, leaves, and fruit and then places the food into their mouths. Elephants may weigh from 2,800 kg to 6,300 kg; males weigh more than females and African Forest Elephants are bigger than Bush Elephants.

African Bush Elephants are active both at night and during the day. They sleep at anytime of the day by leaning against a tree, lying down, or standing. They enjoy bathing, or dipping their nostrils in water holes. They aspirate water into their trunks and then blow it into their mouths or onto their body.

They feed on grass, tree foliage, bark, twigs, herbs, shrubs, roots, and fruit. Altogether, elephants consume more than 225 kilograms (500 pounds) of vegetation a day, spending hours eating it. Due to their large size, African Bush Elephants must drink water daily.

Breeding occurs throughout the year but a female will only give birth once every four years. A large family group is protective of infants and the young.

Elephants are social creatures; they assemble in-groups ranging between 7-70 individuals, depending on the quantity and quality of available food. The more food that is available, the more elephants will be in a group. There will also be a large number of elephants together when there is a drought. Elderly females are the heads of the groups. They decide when and where to move, and they also maintain peace and order within the group. Elephants may migrate long distances in search of food and water. They exhibit a wide variety of vocalizations, in particular those at very low frequencies, to which they are unusually sensitive. They also exhibit gestures or activities that are socially significant.

African Bush Elephants are distributed throughout Sub-Saharan, except the C and W coast of Africa, including 30 countries from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east. They live in many kinds of habitats; deep forest, open savannas, wet marches, thornbush, and semidesert scrub.

African elephant populations have been seriously depleted by overhunting. Hunters and poachers greatly value the ivory in the animals' tusks. To prevent the extinction of these animals, ivory trading was banned in 1989 and the animal declared endangered by the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Unfortunately, wildlife reserves are set up to save the elephants have largely been unsuccessful, as overpopulation occurs and more habitat is lost.

Description of the brain

Animal source and preparation

We have two specimens of the African Bush Elephant. One of these was fixed by perfusion through the carotid arteries by Dr. Roger Reep of the University of Florida. The other specimen was exposed in the basocranial skull and immersed in a solution of formol-saline. The better perfused specimen is shown in the photographs, and was embedded in celloidin. It is awaiting sectioning and staining in the custody of Dr. E. G. Jones at the University of California, Davis. Both specimens were flown to an animal sanctuary in Florida and were obtained for our brain collection when they were only a few years old.

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