Are Elephant Tusks Teeth?
Are elephant tusks teeth?
Elephants have two of these extra-long teeth growing from their upper jaw, and they use them as a tool to help them with tasks such as stripping bark off trees and digging for water or food. People sometimes call elephant tusks “incisors” because incisors are the front teeth found inside your mouth.
Female Asian elephants grow tiny tusks or even none at all.
The average length of an elephant tusk is around 14 inches, but the largest elephant tusks ever measured were over 12 feet!
Here’s an interesting fact: Elephants have one dominant tusk, similar to humans being left or righthanded.
Elephants use their tusks for various activities, including digging in the soil to find water or food, tearing down trees and bushes to get to leaves and grasses, rubbing against trees and rocks to relieve itching on their skin. They also spar with each other using their tusks as weapons. When elephants are fighting one another, they will often use their tusks as a weapon because they can inflict much damage in an elephant fight.
In fact, male elephants often use their tusks as a defensive weapon when they face off against other male elephants that want to challenge them for dominance or territory.
This is why if you ever encounter an elephant while traveling through Africa, it should be viewed from a distance. The last thing you want to do is get between two male elephants rutting, fighting, or playing with one another.
When an elephant is born, it has two milk teeth gradually replaced by the two elephant tusks. It will take about three years for a baby elephant’s tusk(s) to begin growing, but it will grow an actual tusk during its third year of life.
These two tusks are the only permanent teeth an elephant will ever grow, so it won’t grow back when an elephant loses one of its tusks!
Elephants have six (rarely seven) different sets of molars over their lifetime, which they will grow and then replace periodically as needed. They use these many sets of teeth for chewing purposes during various stages of their lives.
Baby elephants (calves) have more than twenty small pristine milk incisors in their mouth at birth, but these are lost quickly after the calf is weaned off its mother’s milk when it reaches about two years old and needs to begin chewing on foods other than its mother’s milk.
After this first set of baby teeth is replaced, the young elephant will go through several larger “milk” teeth until it reaches adulthood and begins to grow its permanent tusks.
Once these permanent teeth are grown, the young elephant will begin another set of molars replaced in several years with larger “adult” molars.
Eventually, when an elephant becomes an adult, it is time for the largest of all of its sets of teeth – its last set of molars that will be replaced when they are worn down and no longer functional.
After an elephant reaches the age of 40, it is considered old and might not have any more sets of teeth to replace with new ones over its lifetime.
So next time you see a picture or video clip of a wild elephant using its tusks to strip bark from trees or dig up roots, remember elephant tusks are teeth, and they’re using them as tools!
In a nutshell:
• An elephant’s tusks are teeth.
• They do have a dominant tusk – just like humans are left or righthanded
• They use them as a tool to help them with tasks such as stripping bark off trees and digging for water or food.
• The average length of an elephant tusk is around 14 inches, but the largest elephant tusks ever measured were over 12 feet!
• When elephants are fighting one another, they often use their tusks as a weapon because they can inflict a lot of damage in an elephant fight, and they might lose a part of their tusk.
• Male elephants often use their tusks as a defensive weapon when they face off against other male elephants that want to challenge them for dominance or territory.
• An elephant’s tusks are their only permanent teeth, and they’ll never grow back if they’re lost.
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