Since the extinction of the dinosaurs, elephants have been the largest land-dwelling animals. Proboscidea evolved as a separate order about 50 MYA, and its many species spread over most of the world. Today only two species survive: the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) and the large-eared African elephant (Loxodonta africana). Adult elephants may weight up to 5000 kg (5 1/2 tons). Each has a proboscis, or trunk, used for breathing, for drinking by sucking up water and squirting it into the mouth, as a “hand” for tearing off food and conveying it to the mouth, and for carrying heavy loads. They have four enormous, pillarlike legs and feet with plantar surfaces that are thick, flexible, fatty pads that spread the weight evenly over a large area so that they leave only shallow footprints. Two upper incisors grow continuously and form the valuable ivory tusks. Elephants in captivity live 50–65 years. In the wild, their life expectancy is less due to disease and to slaughter by poachers collecting ivory. Elephants are herbivores, eating leaves, grasses, tree bark, and other vegetable matter in huge, often destructive quantities. Female elephants produce one offspring every 3 years. Gestation is about 20 months, followed by an almost equal period of nursing and nurturing during which the mother is not fertile.
KeywordsFactor Xiii Tree Bark Fibrinolytic Enzyme African Elephant Vegetable Matter
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