Some observations on growth and tusk weight in male and female African elephants



  • 1 Linear measurements, tusk weights, sex, and locality of origin are given for a series of elephants shot in Uganda.
  • 2 Photographic records of the molar dentition have been used to assess the relative age of specimens and to put selected animals in order of age at death. Comparison with captive elephants of known age shows that wild female African elephants usually begin to breed at eight to twelve years, and examination of very old animals showed that they may be capable of breeding until extreme old age.
  • 3 A diagram has been constructed to relate the body size and tusk size of individual animals to their position in a series arranged in order of age (according to the condition of the molar teeth), the sex being indicated in each case. The diagram includes fifty-seven animals for which all the relevant data are available and it shows that:
  • (i) Growth is noticeably uniform within the sample.
  • (ii) Males and females grow more slowly after puberty but continue to grow for a considerable time. Growth probably continues until late in life or until death.
  • (iii) Males are generally bigger than females of the same age.
  • (iv) The tusks of females usually cease to grow after puberty.
  • (v) The tusks of males sometimes cease to grow after puberty, but more usually continue to do so. Their growth may continue at the same high rate as before puberty, or it may be slowed to a greater or lesser degree. Large tusks are evidently the product of rapid growth rather than longevity, and exceptionally large tusks are probably attributable to the survival to old age of an animal whose tusks have continued to grow at a higher rate than the average.