Q:

What are elephant tusks made of?

A:

Quick Answer

The visible ivory tusks on elephants are made primarily of dentine and include small amounts of enamel. Tusk length varies among African and Asian elephants and is hereditary. The upper incisors may grow to 10 feet or more.

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Full Answer

One-third of the tusk's length is actually hidden from view in the animal's skull and is technically a pulp cavity comprised of tissue, blood and nerves. Primarily used in defense against predators, the tusks are also used in battle against other elephants and to aid in foraging for food. The prized ivory has made the elephant a popular target of poachers and landed the African elephant on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' Vulnerable list, as well as landed the Asian elephant on the Endangered list of animals.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are elephant tusks used for?

    A:

    Elephant tusks are used for obtaining ivory, a hard, white substance that can be found only in the tusks and teeth of certain mammals. The ivory itself is used to make a variety of items that are typically used to show affluence, wealth or importance.

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  • Q:

    How strong are elephants?

    A:

    Elephants are considered the strongest mammal and strongest land animal, as they can carry up to 9,000 kilograms, which in turn equals the approximate weight of 130 adult human beings. An elephant's trunk consists of over 100,000 muscles.

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  • Q:

    Why are elephants so big?

    A:

    Elephants evolved to their current size over the course of tens of millions of years; this size adaptation is likely a survival mechanism because a full-sized, adult elephant faces very little threat from predators, though baby elephants are much more vulnerable to predation from big cats such as lions and wild dogs. There have been cases in which adult elephants have fallen victim to attack from big cats, but these cases are rare. The elephant is the largest known land animal, but scientists believe that this massive mammal evolved from a creature that is roughly the size of a small rodent.

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  • Q:

    How tall are elephants?

    A:

    According to National Geographic, African elephants are the largest animals on Earth and can reach as tall as 13 feet at the shoulder. They weigh as much as 14,000 pounds. Asian elephants are slightly smaller and feature rounder ears.

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