What Does an Elephant Uses Its Tusks For?
An elephant uses its long tusks to dig up roots for food and as weapons of defense. With its tusks it also can lift and carry loads as heavy as a ton. Tusks are used for gathering food and stripping bark to eat from trees.
They also protect the sensitive trunk, which is tucked between them when the elephant charges. In times of drought, elephants dig water holes in dry riverbeds by using their tusks, feet, and trunks.
An elephant’s tusks are actually two long, curved teeth which protrude from its upper jaw. They are made of a hard, tooth-like material called ivory. Like teeth, they may wear down or get broken. A male elephant’s tusks are usually six to eight feet long and weigh about 80 pounds each. Because one tusk is likely to be used more than the other in digging, the two are seldom equal in length.
In the African elephant both the male and the female possess tusks, whereas in the Asian elephant it is mainly the male that has tusks. When present in the female, tusks are small, thin, and often of a uniform thickness. Some male Asian elephants are tuskless and are known as muknas. Tusk size and shape are inherited.
Elephants have six sets of cheek teeth (molars and premolars) in their lifetime, but they do not erupt all at once. At birth an elephant has two or three pairs of cheek teeth in each jaw. New teeth develop from behind and slowly move forward as worn teeth fragment in front and either fall out or are swallowed and excreted.
Each new set is successively longer, wider, and heavier. The last molars can measure nearly 40 cm (almost 16 inches) long and weigh more than 5 kg (about 11 pounds). Only the last four molars or their remains are present after about 60 years of age. Sometimes tooth loss is the cause of death, as it brings on starvation.