🐘 Do elephants have teeth? [Updated 2022]

Yes, elephants have teeth. They have 26 teeth which include 12 deciduous premolars, 12 molars & 2 tusks as the elongated incisors. These strong premolar and molar teeth help them to chew tough vegetation.

The elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal living on the Earth. They are herbivorous animals that rely on grasses, shrubs, roots, branches, tree barks & other vegetation, etc. for their survival. They have generally 26 teeth comprising 12 deciduous premolars, 12 molars & 2 tusks as the elongated incisors. Elephants are generally polyphyodont which has 4 to 6 cycles of teeth replacement throughout their lifespan. 

Why do elephants need teeth?

Elephants are herbivorous animals. Their food mainly includes tough vegetation such as tree branches, roots, shoots, and tree barks. Elephants have strong premolar and molar teeth that allow them to chew and break down these tough vegetations. They also have two long and strong tusks which help them to move obstacles in their path and protect the trunk during the fight.

Size, shape, and color of Elephant’s teeth

Elephant’s teeth have evolved according to their need and their habitat over millions of years. Their teeth are generally wide and flat in shape. The ridges on the surface of the teeth form a diamond shape. 

Teeth growth and replacement in Elephants

Most mammals generally grow baby teeth and then replace them with permanent teeth only once in their lifespan while elephants can replace their teeth six-times in their lifetime. 

They have a unique way of replacing their teeth. First, the new teeth will grow behind the old teeth and these new teeth will move forward to push old ones. The first set of teeth grow at the age of 2-3 years, the second set around the age of 4-6 years, the third set around 9-15 years old, the fourth set around 18-28 years old, fifth around 40-45 years old and the last one at the age of 48-50-year-old and last for rest of their life. 

Generally, four molar teeth are present at one time and eventually get replaced with the same number. Elephants have two incisors similar to other mammals that grow continuously throughout their life and are called tusks. 

Elephant’s Tusks size, color, and shape 

Elephant tusks are elongated long, round, and curvy incisors that are as hard as calcite minerals. 

They replace their incisor milk teeth at the age of 6-12 months and the newly replaced incisors grow long into tusk at the rate of 15-17 cm in the year. Their incisors develop into a large size c and grow to a maximum of 300 cm in their lifespan. Their tusks are generally smooth and round. They are generally light yellowish & creamy-whitish. 

These tusks are largely made of smooth and hard enamel caps. About 30% of the tusk consists of pulp and the remaining comprise of nerves due to deeply rooted in their skull. 

Elephants use their tusks for debarking or marking trees to represent their dominant area and for moving trees and branches when clearing a path. Elephants use tusks to attack, defend, and protect their trunk during the fight for domination. They are typically right or left tusked like right or left-handedness in human beings.  

Teeth size, number, and weight of African elephants

Similar to other elephants, African elephants also have 26 teeth in total with 12 each present in the upper and lower jaw including one tusk each on both sides. African elephants have four molar teeth that are 27-31cm long and weigh around 4-5 kg. These molar teeth get replaced 4 to 6 times throughout their lifespan. African elephant’s tusks are composed of dentin and weigh from 23 to 45 kg and grow up to 1.8 to 2.6 m long.

Teeth of Asian elephants

The Asian elephant has 26 teeth and almost similar in most of the analogy with African species. They have more and closely packed enamel plates. In Asian elephant species, only male elephants have tusks while female ones lack tusks. Some male elephants can also lack a tusk and are called FILSY MAKHNAS. These types of elephants are commonly found on Srilanka Island. Compared to African elephants, Asian elephants can have long, slim, and curvy tusks.

Ancient ancestor Woolly Mammoths

It is believed that Woolly Mammoths had been the ancestor or relatives of the existing elephants. Mammoths had analogical similarities to the Asian elephants. They had almost the same kind of teeth pattern in their jaws but the evidence is lacking that can prove they had a similar type of growth cycle. They had more developed and strong tusks. Their tusks were longer, heavy, curvier, and had rough shapes as compared to modern-day elephants.

Professor Atom

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Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

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