Elephant molar teeth

Dentes molares

Dentition

African elephant molars

African elephant molar

The african elephant (Loxodonta africana) :

  • Is more adapted to a browsing diet, feeding mainly on branches from trees and bushes
  • Has loxodont (Loxodonta means 'sloping teeth') molars.
  • Each molar has a maximum of 10 ridges.

Asian elephant molars

Asian elephant molar The asian elephant (Elephas maximus) :
  • Is more adapted to a grass diet
  • has molars with parallel ridges.
  • can have more than 20 ridges per molar.

Mastodon molars

Mastodon molars were low-crowned and fairly small and had three or four prominent transverse ridges of enamel. Mastodons have fewer ridges on their molar teeth than elephants and the ridges are also less elevated.

Stegodon molars

Stegodon was an ancestors of todays elephants, and developed larger molars, also with transverse enamel ridges.

Primelephas molars

Stegodon evolved into Primelephas, which is ancestor of the extinct genus of Mammoths and two recent genus of elephants, Loxodonta and Elephas

Mammoth molars

Mammuthus planifrons and Mammuthus meridionalis had 12 and 14 ridges on their molars, while the Wooly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) had 27 such ridges, probably because of its extreme browsing diet.

Mastodon molar
Mastodon molar

Stegodon
Stegodon airawana
molar from Sangiran, Java.
Nat. History Museum Vienna
(Photo © Jutta Kirchner, Vienna Zoo)

Dentition

The molar teeth are cheekteeth with ridges, which are developed for grinding food, hence the name molar, which means "millstone".

Elephants chew with a fore and aft motion of the jaw, grinding the food across the lophs.

The molars of different species differ considerably, and is one of the most important key´s for paleontologists to determine the species of a fossil, since teeth are one of the most common findings in excavation sites.

Some references claim that the first three molar teeth are premolars, and the last three are true molars, but the anterior molars of elephants do not correspond to the premolars of other ungulates, but to the milk-molars!! (Premolars are abcent!)

The molar teeths were also an inspiration for the evolutionists to name different species, Mastodon means "breast-toothed" and Stegodon means "roof-toothed", and Loxodonta means "sloping teeth".

Molar replacement

Elephants normally change their molars six times during their lifetime, when older molar gets worn-out, they get replaced horizontally from new ones. When the last supplement gets worn-out, they die out of starvation. (The "natural" dead-cause of almost all herbivoures, which doesnt fall prey to predators.) In some cases, the replacement is difficult, and the molar has to be removed. Increased daily supplement of branches over several months may solve the problem, othervise the molar has to be removed by a Vet. The removal of an elephant's molar tooth is always a difficult surgical undertaking, although it has been performed successfully on numerous occasions

Molar Molar Appearance Molar Loss
I birth 2 years
II birth 6 years
III 1 year 13-15 years
IV 6 years 28 years
V 18 years 43 years
VI 30 years 65+ years
  

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