Page 3 - Evolution and Classification

                                       Evolution and Classification









Elephant is the largest terrestrial animal on earth. There are different etymological suggestions on the origin of the word elephant and the most plausible origin is a combination of Semitic and Latin meanings which implies “that which carries ivory”. Teeth in Sanskrit are termed Dantam and thus the elephants are also called Danti because of their tusks, which are overgrown incisors.

Elephants are placed in the order Proboscidea (Gr. pro, in front, boskein, to nourish), named for their trunk. They are also called pachyderms, (Gr. Pachys, thick, derma, skin) because of their thick skin. With the addition of 13 new taxa, the scientific community has recognised 175 species and subspecies of proboscideans classified in 42 genera and ten families. But now there are only three extant species, forest African elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) Bush African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

A simple classification of the present day elephants is given below.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Subclass Eutheria (Placental mammals)
Order: Proboscidea
Family: Moeritheriidae
Genus: Moeritherium
Family: Palaeomastodontidae
Genus: Palaeomastodon
Family: Gomphotheriidae
Family: Mammutidae
Genus Mammut (mastodons)
Family: Elephantidae
Genus: Primelephas
Genus: Mammuthus (mammoths)
Genus: Elephas
species: maximus (Asian elephants)
Genus: Loxodonta
species: cyclotis (African forest elephants)
species: africana (African savanna elephants)