Anti-Caturday: Elephant

elephant ears by BrittanyH
Elephant ears by BrittanyH

I love the word pachyderm for some unknown reason. And the animals that match it are pretty cool too. Elephants are thought to be as smart as primates and their memory is legendary enough to warrant sayings all around the world, even in the furthest reaches of the North. Their pregnancy period is a whopping 22 months – almost two full years! As well it should be seeing as they are the largest living land mammal that gathers its sustenance mainly from grasses and leaves.

But the most astounding fact about elephants (to me at least) is this: there are three distinct species of elephant alive today. For a long time phenotypical classification decreed only two distinct species of elephant; the African (Loxodonta africana) and the Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus). When the African Elephant’s genome was mapped the researchers found that there were two distinct species each genetically speaking as far from each other as they are from the wooly mammoths. And they can still get it on to produce viable offspring together. Which means that if some evil genius managed to bring a wooly mammoth back to life they could totally have an army of mammoth hybrids running around in 22 months.

Asian Elephant, Elephas maximus by Arran Edmonstone
Asian Elephant, Elephas maximus by Arran Edmonstone

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