Elephants and a Mammoth
African Bush and Asian Elephants
The African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the heaviest land mammal, and the second tallest in the Animal Kingdom. With 15% of total body weight in the bones, an elephant’s skeleton is massive. Individuals continue to grow throughout their lives. Typically males stand about 12 feet (3.6 m) at the shoulder. This male elephant may have weighed as much as about 13,200 pounds (6,000 kg).
African Bush Elephants may eat up to 660 pounds (300 kg) of vegetation and drink 50 gallons (190 liters) of water a day. To get food, elephants often tear bushes and trees apart or push them over. Humans are the only predators of adult elephants, but calves are sometimes snatched away by lions and hyenas.
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximas sumatranus) on exhibit at the MSU Museum is from Sumatra in western Indonesia. According to Museum records, it was first displayed sometime between 1861-1909, when the MSU Museum was called the “State Agriculture College Museum.” There are three Asian Elephant subspecies: Elephas maximas maximus from the island of Sri Lanka, Elephas maximas indicus from mainland Asia, and Elephas maximas sumatranus from the island of Sumatra. The skull displayed on the east side of the Hall is from mainland Asia.
Columbian mammoths (Mammuthus columbi) were slightly larger than today’s elephants with far longer tusks: up to 16 feet (nearly 5 meters) long. They survived cold temperatures with the help of extra fat stores and hairy coats. This fossilized mammoth skull was collected in 1971 in Trego County, Kansas. It is estimated to be about half a million years old.