Popular Science Monthly/Volume 21/August 1882/About Elephants
THE interest which attaches to the modern representatives of the mammoth host is by no means limited to the zoölogical world, but extends throughout all classes of society, who find something to wonder at even in the huge proportions and ungainly ways of the elephant family. A remarkably limited family circle is that which includes the elephants as its typical representatives. The past history of the race, like that of not a few other groups of animals and plants, is exactly the converse of its present-day phases, as regards numerical strength at least. As the existing pearly nautilus is the sole survivor of the immense hordes of four-gilled and shelled cuttle-fishes which swarmed in the primitive seas and oceans of our earth, or as the few living "lampshells," or Brachiopods, represent in themselves the fullness of a life that crowded the Silurian seas, so the two existing species of elephants with which we are familiar to-day stand forth among quadrupeds as the representatives of a comparatively plentiful past population of these mammalian giants. The causes which have depopulated the earth of its elephantine tenants may be alluded to hereafter; but it is evident that neither size nor strength avails against the operation of those physical environments which so powerfully affect the ways and destinies of man and monad alike. One highly important feature of elephant organization may, however, be noted even in these preliminary details respecting the modern scarcity of elephantine species, namely, that the slow increase of the race, and, as compared with other animals at least, the resulting paucity of numbers, must have had their own share as conditions affecting the existence of these huge animals. The elephants are, of all known animals, the slowest to increase in numbers. At the earliest, the female elephant does not become a parent until the age of thirty years, and only six young are capable of being produced during the parental period, which appears to cease at ninety years of age; the average duration of elephant-life being presumed to be about a hundred years. But it is most interesting, as well as important, in view of any speculation on the increase of species and on the question of competition among the races of animal life, to reflect that, given favorable conditions of existence, such as a sufficiency of food, a freedom from disease and from the attack of enemies, and the elephant race, slow of increase as it is, would come in a few thousand years to stock the entire world with its huge representatives. On the data afforded by the foregoing details of the age at which these animals produce young, and of their parental period, it is easy to calculate that in from seven hundred and forty to seven hundred and fifty years, nineteen million elephants would remain to represent a natural population. If such a contingency awaits even a slowly increasing race such as the elephants unquestionably are, the powerful nature of the adverse conditions which have ousted their kith and kin from a place among living quadrupeds can readily be conceived. In the face of such facts, the contention that the "struggle for existence," in lopping off the weak and allowing the strong to survive, accomplishes in its way an actual good becomes-clear. And the important biological lesson is also enforced, that there is a tolerably deep meed of philosophy involved in the Laureate's pertinent remark concerning the "secret meaning" of the deeds. of Nature, through
She often brings but one to bear."
Reference has already been made to the paucity of existing species of elephants, only two distinct species being included in the lists of modern naturalists. These are the African elephant (Loxodon [or Elephas] Africanus) and the Indian elephant (Elephas Indicus). But the elephantine race is not without its variations and digressions from the ordinary type. We discover that among the elephants of each species "varieties" are by no means uncommon. These varieties appear as the progeny of ordinary animals. Thus the Sumatran elephant and that of Ceylon are regarded as constituting a distinct species, one authority (Schlegel), indeed, affixing to it the distinctive appellation of Elephas Sumatrensis. The balance of zoölogical opinion, however, is in favor of the Ceylon form being simply a "variety" of the Indian species; in other words, the differences between these two forms are not accounted of sufficient merit to elevate the former to the rank of a distinct animal unit. The famous "white elephants," whose existence has given origin to the proverbial expression concerning the disadvantage of unwieldy possessions, have a veritable existence. In Siam, as is well known, these animals are regarded with the utmost reverence, and are held in sacred estimation and kept in royal state by sovereign command. They are to be regarded, however, merely as an albino or colorless "variety" of the Indian species. Their production depends, like that of albinos or white varieties of birds or other animals, on some undetermined conditions affecting development. We occasionally find white varieties of birds—even including that paradoxical anomaly, a white blackbird—and albino cats are as familiar objects as are albino rabbits and white mice. Darwin remarks on the fact that albinism is very susceptible of transmission to offspring, and it is so even in the human race. It is not known whether the white elephants exhibit any special peculiarity of structure or life; but the interesting correlation has been observed that almost all white cats which possess blue eyes are deaf. The nature and origin of this association of characters are unknown, but the occurrence of such apparently unconnected states serves to remind us that great as yet are the mysteries which environ the becoming of the living worlds.
The characters of the Indian and African elephants, respectively, are by no means difficult to bear in mind. The Indian elephant (Fig. 1, 2) has a concave or hollow forehead, and the ears are of relatively moderate size. The eye is exceptionally small, while there are four nails or hoofs on the hind-feet, the number of toes on each foot being five in all elephants. The color of the Indian species is, moreover, a pale brown, and is of a lighter hue than that of the African species; and, while the former has "tusks" in the males alone, the latter possesses tusks in both sexes. The African elephant (Fig. 1, 1) has a rounded skull and a convex forehead, and the ears are of very large size. It possesses only three nails on the hind-feet, and four hoofs on the front toes. Certain important differences, to be presently noted, also exist between the teeth of these species.
The limits of size of the two species of elephants appear to have afforded subject-matter for considerable discussion. The average height of the male Indian elephant is from eight to ten feet, and that
of the females from seven to eight feet. The African species, according to the most generally recorded testimony, attains a larger size than its Indian neighbor. Sir Emerson Tennent, quoting a source of error in the measurement of elephants, gives the remarks of a writer who says:
"Elephants were measured formerly, and even now, by natives, as to their height, by throwing a rope over them, the ends brought to the ground on each side, and half the length taken as the true height. Hence the origin of elephants fifteen and sixteen feet high. A rod held at right angles to the measuring rod, and parallel to the ground, will rarely give more than ten feet, the majority being under nine."
As regards the number of elephants captured annually, a recent return gives us five hundred and three as captured in the three years ending 1880, in the forests of Assam, by the Indian Government.
There exist a few points in the special anatomy of the elephants of which it may be permissible to treat briefly, and, of these points, the skeleton presents several for examination. First in interest, perhaps, comes the enormous size of the skull, and the modifications wherewith this huge mass of bone is rendered relatively light and more easily supported on the spine. The skull of the elephant is unquestionably large, even when considered in relation to the huge body of which it forms such an important part; but, when the skull is seen in section, we discover that, instead of presenting us with a solid mass of bone, its walls are hollowed out in a remarkable fashion, so as to materially reduce its weight. It is evident that a demand exists in these animals for \a skull of great strength, which not only shall be equal to the task of giving origin to muscles of power sufficient for the animal's movements, but which may also adequately support the great "tusks." And Nature has succeeded accordingly, by a most interesting modification, in uniting size and strength to a minimum of weight.
A very short but strong neck and powerful bony processes borne on the joints thereof serve as support and holdfasts respectively for the huge cranium. In other parts of the skeleton, such as in the shape and form of the shoulder-blade, the elephants resemble the rodent quadrupeds, such as the hares, rabbits, rats, beavers, etc.; and it has long been a notable fact of elephantine anatomy that this resemblance is by no means limited even to the bones. But a somewhat ludicrous peculiarity of the elephants, readily noted by the observer, and one referred to by both classic and modern poets, is their awkward gait; and this again-depends upon a readily understood anatomical modification. It is such a peculiarity that is referred to in "Troilus and Cressida," in the lines—
His legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure."
And again the phrase—
evidently refers to the curious and ungainly movements of these quadrupeds. The explanation of the elephantine gait rests primarily with the length of the thigh-bone, and with the facts that this bone is very long and lies perpendicularly to the line or axis of the spine, the thigh not forming an acute angle with the spine, as in other quadrupeds. Thus, the "ham" of the animal stretches half-way down the thigh, and, when the animal walks, the bend of the knee or leg at the latter point imparts a decided clumsiness to the gait. The great body rests, not so much upon the toes as upon the great pads which unite the toes, and which in fact constitute a broad, flat sole behind these members. Similar pads in the rhinoceros and hippopotamus support the weight of the body. No collar-bones are developed in the elephant race—a fact which, of course, bears a relation to the absence of those movements, such as climbing, etc., in which these bones play an important part, as serving to fix the limb employed. The brain of the elephant reveals certain points of anatomical interest. For example, the lesser brain or "cerebellum" is not covered by the brain proper or "cerebrum"; but the surface of the latter is deeply convoluted or folded. The existence of deep brain-convolutions in man is believed to be associated with a high measure of intellectual power, and the elephants do not seem to belie the statement, as applied to lower life, when their sagacity is taken into consideration. The proportion borne by the weight of the brain to that of the body has always formed an interesting topic of physiological nature. As a matter of fact, great variations exist when the ratio of brain to body is examined in different animals. Thus in man, as is the. case with lower animals, the ratio diminishes with increasing weight and height. In lean persons the ratio is often as 1: 22 to 27, and in stout persons as 1: 50 to 100. In the Greenland whale the ratio is given as 1 to 3,000; in the ox as 1 to 160; in the horse as 1 to 400; in the dog as 1 to 305; in the elephant as 1 to 500; in the chimpanzee as 1 to 50; and in man as 1 to 36.
The absolute weight of brain in an elephant which was seven and a half feet high, and eight and a half feet in length from forehead to tail, was nine pounds. The brain of an Indian elephant was found to weigh ten pounds; and Sir Astley Cooper gives the weight of the brain of another specimen as eight pounds, one ounce, and two grains; while that of an African elephant seventeen years old was found by Perrault to weigh nine pounds.
The muscular system of the elephant necessarily partakes of the massive character adapted for the work of moving and transporting the huge frame. But the anatomy of the "proboscis" or "trunk" constitutes in itself a special topic of interest, and one, moreover, which gives to the proboscidian race one of its most notable characteristics. The "trunk" is, of course, the elongated nose of the elephant. It is perforated by the nostrils which open at its tip, and above the apertures is a curious finger-like process, which, when opposed to a small projection somewhat resembling a thumb in function, constitutes a veritable hand, and is utilized by the animal in almost every detail of its life. With the exception cf the snout of the tapirs, the trunk of the elephant has not even a distant parallel in the animal series. Its muscles form two sets of fibers, one set of which compressing its substance also extends its length, while the second set shortens the organ and enables it to bend freely in any direction. When we add to the possession of this extreme muscularity a high degree of sensitiveness, the proboscis of these animals may be regarded in the light of one of the most useful as well as most interesting features of their organization. Its use is not limited to the prehension of food (Fig. 2, 1, 2), however, or even to the additional function of an organ of touch. Occasionally, water is drawn up into the trunk, and is then squirted over the body as from a flexible hose (Fig. 2, 3), thus serving as a kind of shower-bath apparatus; and stories have been recorded wherein such a use of the proboscis has played a prominent part in the act of elephantine revenge on some over-bold or offending human.
The teeth of the elephantine race form a highly characteristic feature of their anatomy. In the mouth of a higher quadruped, such as man, the bat, or ape, no less than four kinds of teeth are represented. These are the front teeth, or incisors, the "eye-teeth," or canines, the premolars, and the molars, or "grinders."
In the elephants, only two kinds of teeth are represented, these being the incisors, or front teeth, and the molars, or grinders; while the front teeth themselves only exist in the upper jaw. The incisors grow from "permanent pulps," and hence they increase during the whole life of the animal, or nearly so. A large pair of tusks may weigh from one hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds, and as regards structure
they are found to consist of dentine, or "ivory," and of "cement"; while the enamel, which forms such a characteristic feature of ordinary teeth, may or may not be represented. The tusks vary, according to Darwin, "in the different species or races according to sex, nearly as do the horns of ruminants. In India and Malacca, the males alone are provided with well-developed tusks. The elephant of Ceylon," adds Mr. Darwin, "is considered by most naturalists as a distinct race; there, 'not one in a hundred is found with tusks, the few that possess them being exclusively males.' The African elephant is undoubtedly distinct, and the female has large, well-developed tusks, though not so large as those of the male." The molars, or grinding-teeth, exhibit an equally curious structure. In the life-time of an elephant twenty-four molar teeth are developed in all, six on each side of each jaw. But, at any one time in the life of the animal, not more than two of these teeth are to be seen in each side of the jaw. A curious succession of these molars takes place in the elephants, for they are found to move from behind forward, the teeth in use being gradually ousted from their place by their successors as the former are worn away. Thus the whole set of molars in due time moves forward in the jaw and each successive tooth is, as a rule, larger than its predecessor. In structure, the molars of the elephant are highly peculiar, each exhibiting the appearance rather of a compound than of a single tooth. Each tooth is built up of a series of plates set perpendicularly in the tooth, and consisting of ivory, or "dentine," covered by enamel, while "cement" fills up the interspaces between the plates. As the tooth wears in its work, the enamel comes to project above the surface of the tooth, and a characteristic pattern is thus developed on the surface of the molars of each species of living elephant. Thus, in the Indian elephant, the molars exhibit a series of cross-ridges, which are more numerous than those of the African species, while in the latter form the enamel plates form a distinctly lozenge-shaped pattern. It sometimes happens that in elephants kept in captivity the succession of the teeth is disarranged, from the fact that the molars are not worn away fast enough, and the succeeding teeth are displaced, thereby causing deformity of the jaws.
The elephants were included in the older systems of classification in a somewhat heterogeneous group of quadrupeds named the Pachydermata. That this order—now abolished and divided to form several new groups—was motley enough in its representation is readily seen, when we discover that the rhinoceroses, hippopotami, and other forms were included within its limits along with the elephants themselves. The technical name "Pachydermata" related to the thick skin which invests the bodies of the animals just mentioned, and in the elephants this characteristic is, of course, extremely well represented. The thick skin hangs in folds on the body, while the typical hair-covering which, by natural right, all quadrupeds possess, is but sparsely developed. It would seem, however, that the young elephant possesses a much more profuse covering of hairs than the adult. Such a statement is consistent with the general biological law which holds that the young form exhibits the primitive characters of the race more typically than the adult. In this view of matters the young elephant is nearer the type of its ancestors than the adult; and in the young whales the same remark holds good; since the youthful cetaceans may possess a sparse covering of hairs, such as the adults do not exhibit.
Speaking of the comparative hairlessness of the elephant and rhinoceros, Mr. Darwin remarks that, "as certain extinct species (e. g., mammoth) which formerly lived under an Arctic climate, were covered with hair, it would almost appear as if the existing species of both genera had lost their hairy covering from exposure to heat. This appears the more probable, as the elephants in India which live on elevated and cool districts are more hairy than those on the lowlands."
The social history and psychology of the elephant race form of themselves topics wide enough to fill a volume. From the earliest times, these animals have been enlisted by man in the service of war, or as beasts of burden, as aids in the chase, or even in the brutal and demoralizing sports of the ancient arena. The value of ivory in the earliest ages must have given rise to elephant-hunting as a source of gain and profit; and the inroads of man upon the species have naturally caused not merely a limitation in the numbers of these animals, but have likewise served to modify, in a very marked fashion, their geographical distribution. But the utility of these great animals to man depends as much upon their docility and tractable nature as upon their manufacture of ivory. Probably there is no more sagacious animal than a well-trained elephant, and the development of such high instincts as these animals exhibit may form an additional illustration of the marked influence of association with man in inducing the growth of intelligence and reasoning powers in the animal creation. ~No one may doubt that the dog, for instance, has benefited to a marked degree from such association with human surroundings, and that the comparatively low mental powers of many other animals are susceptible of higher development through domestication is an idea fully supported by all that is known of instances where a wild race, or individual animal of wild habits, has been brought in contact with man. The "learned pigs" and tame hares are cases in point; and the relatively low mental powers of many of the apes may be largely attributed to that want of interest in "poor relations" with which humanity, as a body, views the quadrumanous tribes.
The records of popular natural history teem with examples of the sagacity of elephants, a mental quality which, it may be added, is likely to owe much to the relatively long life and corresponding opportunities of acquiring experience which these animals possess; while it has been also remarked that, as the elephant, unlike the dog, rarely breeds in captivity, and as each individual elephant has to acquire, independently of heredity, its own knowledge of the world and of man, so to speak, these great animals present infinitely more remarkable examples of animal sagacity than the dog. One specially interesting feature of elephant-life consists in the aid given by the domesticated elephant to man in the capture of the wild species. The fact of these animals entering into an offensive and, from its very nature, an intelligent alliance with man, against their own race, may be regarded either as illustrating the desire to benefit the race by conferring upon them the blessings of civilized life and employment, or as exemplifying a process of demoralization and treacherous development which might afford an argument against the universally beneficial effects of domestication of the animal form. Nor is therendered any the less attractive to the metaphysician and moralist, when it is discovered that it is through the caresses and blandishments of the false females that the wild elephants are tempted into the snare: the parallelism between the experiences of lower and higher life being too obvious in this instance to escape remark.
Probably no animal exhibits a greater knowledge or instinctive apprehension of danger than an elephant. Instances are numerous, for example, when an elephant has refused to cross a bridge esteemed safe by his human guides, but which has collapsed with the animal's weight, when, goaded and tortured to proceed, he has advanced in despair, only to find himself immersed in the water below. But cases are also recorded in which the danger experienced by the elephant itself has apparently not rendered it insensible to the safety of its keeper. "The elephant," says Darwin, "is very faithful to his driver or keeper, and probably considers him as the leader of the herd. Dr. Hooker informs me that an elephant which he was riding in India became so deeply bogged that he remained stuck fast until the next day, when he was extricated by men with ropes. Under such circumstances elephants will seize with their trunks any object, dead or alive, to place under their knees to prevent their sinking deeper in the mud; and the driver was dreadfully afraid lest the animal should have seized Dr. Hooker and crushed him to death. But the driver himself, as Dr. Hooker was assured, ran no risk. This forbearance, under an emergency so dreadful for a heavy animal, is a wonderful proof of noble fidelity." Swainson gives a description of the sagacity of an elephant under such circumstances which is worth quoting in the present instance: "The cylindrical form of an elephant's leg—which is nearly of equal thickness—causes the animal to sink very deep in heavy ground, especially in the muddy banks of small rivers. When thus situated, the animal will endeavor to lie on his side, so as to avoid sinking deeper, and, for this purpose, will avail himself of every means to obtain relief. The usual mode of extricating him is much the same as when he is pitted; that is, by supplying him liberally with straw, boughs, grass, etc.; these materials being thrown to the distressed animal, he forces them down with his trunk, till they are lodged under his fore-feet in sufficient quantity to resist his pressure. Having thus formed a sufficient basis for exertion, the sagacious animal next proceeds to thrust other bundles under his belly, and as far back under his flanks as he can reach; when such a basis is formed as may be, in his mind, proper to proceed upon, he throws his whole weight forward, and gets his hind-feet gradually upon the straw, etc. Being once confirmed on a solid footing, he will next place the succeeding bundles before him, pressing them well with his trunk, so as to form a causeway by which to reach the firm ground. . . . He will not bear any weight, definitely, until, by trial both with his trunk and the next foot that is to be planted, he has completely satisfied himself of the firmness of the ground he is to tread upon. . . . The anxiety of the animal when bemired forms a strong contrast with the pleasure he so strongly evinces on arriving at terra firma" Such an account becomes extremely interesting, as convincing us that much, if not all, of the sagacity which is called forth by such circumstances must be inherent and original, as opposed to that gained by experience. It can not be supposed that the accident described can form such a frequent experience of elephant-existence in a wild state as to constitute a certain basis for acquired knowledge of what to do in the exigency. On the contrary, it seems more reasonable to suppose that the inherent and intuitive sagacity of the animal is simply called forth by the threatened danger, and that such an exigency brings into play mental acts analogous to those whereby, through mechanical and similar contrivances to those employed by the elephant, man might rescue himself or his property from immersion in the swamps.
The memory of elephants is of a highly remarkable nature, both as to its duration and in its operation as enabling the animal to recognize friends and foes. I am fortunate in being able to place on record an instance of elephant memory of a very interesting kind, and one which serves to show in a highly typical manner the remembrance by these animals of kindness, and also of the reverse treatment. In 1874 Wombwell's menagerie visited Tenbury, in Gloucestershire, and on that occasion the female elephant, "Lizzie" by name, drank a large quantity of cold water when heated after a long walk—the animal, as a consequence, being attacked with severe internal spasms. A local chemist, a Mr. Turley, being called in as medical adviser, succeeded in relieving the elephant's pain, the treatment including the application of a very large blister to the side. The menagerie in due course went its way; but, in May, 1879, it again visited Tenbury, and, as Mr. Turley stood at his shop-door watching the zoölogical procession pass down the street, the elephant stepped out of the ranks, crossed from one side of the street to the other, and, having advanced to Mr. Turley, placed her trunk round his hand and held it firmly, at the same time making, as Mr. Turley informs me, a peculiar grunting noise, as if by way of welcome. Thus it was clear that, after an interval of five years, "Lizzie" had recognized an old friend in Mr. Turley, and that, moreover, she remembered him with a sense of gratitude for his successful endeavors to relieve the pain from which she had suffered. At night Mr. Turley visited the menagerie, when the elephant again made every demonstration of joy, and embraced him with her trunk. She drew Mr. Turley's attention particularly to the side whereon the blister had been applied, thus showing that all the circumstances of five years previous were fresh in her memory. Observing that in 1881 the menagerie had again visited Tenbury, I wrote to Mr. Turley, inquiring if "Lizzie" had again recognized her old friend. That gentleman replied, his letter bearing date May, 1881, that she had again recognized him, beginning to "trumpet" whenever she beheld Mr. Turley among the spectators in the menagerie. On his speaking to his patient, she placed her trunk round his legs and lifted him from the ground, but in the gentlest manner possible. On Mr. Turley proceeding to examine one of her hind-legs, which had been under treatment, the elephant kept holding one of her fore-legs toward him in such a fashion as to draw his attention to the limb. As Mr. Turley, however, had had no concern with the fore-leg, he was puzzled to account for the animal's movement; but the keeper explained that the fore-leg in question had been treated by a veterinary surgeon for an injury, and that the latter had used his lancet to afford relief. The elephant was irritated by the operation, and expressed her resentment on again seeing the veterinary practitioner by striking at him with her trunk. The act of calling Mr. Turley's attention to the fore-leg was simply an expression of admiration for the gentler treatment to which he had subjected his patient; the quieter medical treatment contrasting apparently with the rougher surgical measure to which the fore-leg had been subjected. It is thus clear not merely that the elephantine nature is endowed with an active memory, but that a lively sense of gratitude for past kindness is also represented in the list of mental attributes of this giant race.
A parallel instance of elephant memory is afforded by the case of an elephant which, having broken loose from the stables on a stormy night, escaped into the jungles. Four years thereafter, when a drove of wild elephants was captured in the "keddah," or inclosure, the keeper of the lost elephant went to inspect the new arrivals, arid climbed on the railings of the "keddah" to obtain a satisfactory view of the captured animals. Having fancied that among the animals he recognized the escaped elephant—an idea ridiculed by his comrades—he called his lost charge by name. The animal at once came close to the barrier, and, on the keeper proceeding into the inclosure and commanding it to lie down, the elephant obeyed, and the man led his former charge triumphantly forth from among its wild companions. But the memory of kindnesses is equaled in the elephant by that which recalls acts of injury to remembrance. The well-known story of the Indian elephant which, on being pricked by a native tailor near whose stall it had wandered, returned and deluged the man with a shower-bath of dirty water, finds many parallels in the history of elephant character. An elephant, which was kept at Versailles by Louis XIV, was in the habit of revenging himself for affronts and injuries. A man who, feigning to throw something into his mouth, disappointed him, was beaten to the ground with the trunk and trampled upon. On a painter desiring to sketch this elephant with trunk erect and mouth open, his servant was instructed to feed the elephant for the purpose of inducing the animal to assume the desired attitude. But, the supply of food falling short and elephantine chagrin being aroused, the elephant, drawing up water into his trunk, coolly showered it down upon the unfortunate painter and his sketch, drenching the one, and rendering: the other useless.
The pugnacity of the elephant is very great, and the determination with which contests are carried on between these animals is highly remarkable. Mr. Darwin, on the authority of the late Dr. Falconer, tells us that the Indian species fights in varied fashions, determined by the position and curvature of his tusks. "When they are directed forward and upward, he is able to fling a tiger to a great distance—it is said to even thirty feet; when they are short and turned downward, he endeavors suddenly to pin the tiger to the ground, and, in consequence, is dangerous to the rider, who is liable to be jerked off the howdah"—for it is on
as Milton has it, that the great carnivore of India is hunted. A most remarkable trait of elephant existence, and one which parallels the proverbial "red rag" and bovine fury, is the apparent animosity of the race to white color. Sir Samuel Baker says that both the African elephant and the rhinoceros attack gray or white horses with fury. The explanation of such traits of character probably lies hidden in that philosophy of color in relation to sex and animal development which the of Darwin and others have so far unraveled.
As a final observation regarding the psychology of the elephant, Mr. Darwin's statements concerning the "weeping" of these animals may be quoted. Remarking that the Indian species is known to weep, Mr. Darwin quotes Sir Emerson Tennent, who says that some "lay motionless on the ground, with no other indication of suffering than the tears which suffused their eyes and flowed incessantly." Another elephant, "when overpowered and made fast," exhibited great grief; "his violence sank to utter prostration, and he lay on the ground, uttering choking cries, with tears trickling down his cheeks." "In the Zoölogical Gardens," says Darwin, "the keeper of the Indian elephants positively asserts that he has several times seen tears rolling down the face of the old female, when distressed by the removal of the young one." Mr. Darwin also makes the interesting observation that, when the Indian elephant "trumpets," the orbicular muscles of the eyes contract, while in the "trumpeting" of the African species these muscles do not act. Hence, as Mr. Darwin believes that in man the violent contraction of the muscles round the eyes is connected with the flow of tears, it would seem by analogy to be a legitimate inference that the Indian elephant has attained a higher stage in the expression of its emotions than its African neighbor.
The social history of the elephants includes several somewhat melancholy incidents connected with the dispatch of these animals, rendered necessary from their dangerous condition. The best known of these incidents is that connected with the death of Chunee, the Exeter Change elephant, reported in the "Times" for March 2, 1826. The account of the death of Chunee is as follows:
After reading this account, we may well feel tempted to indorse the opinion of a correspondent of "Land and Water," who remarks that the like of it "can never occur again, thank God, in England!"
The history of the elephants would be manifestly imperfect, even when detailed in the briefest manner, without a reference to their present distribution and to the biography of the race in the past. As in the case of many other groups of animals and plants, we can only fully appreciate the modern relations of the elephants when some knowledge of their development in the geological ages has been obtained. In the eyes of the modern naturalist, the present of any living being is not merely bound up in its past development, but the existing conditions of any race become explicable in many cases only when the former range of the group in time has been ascertained. This holds especially true of the elephants; for the existing species represent the remnants of a once larger and far more extensive distribution of proboscidian life. Hence, it behooves us to make the acquaintance, firstly, of their present distribution, and secondly of their distribution and development in past ages, if we are to understand with any degree of completeness and mental satisfaction the relations of the elephantine races.
The distribution of the elephant on the earth as it now exists may be disposed of in a very few words. The Indian species occurs in Asia, from the Himalayas to Ceylon, while its range extends eastward to the Chinese borders, and southward to Sumatra and Borneo as well. The African species possesses as localized a habitat. It was Swift who, remarking on the customs of geographers in his day, said:
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o'er unhabitable downs
The witty dean's lines show at least that the geographers did not mistake the wide distribution of the giant animal in the Ethiopian continent. For, south of the Sahara—the territory north of which is zoologically' a part of Europe the African elephant is everywhere found, forming one of the most characteristic features at once of the African landscape and of the Ethiopian fauna, and dividing the sovereignty of the land with the lion himself.
Turning now to the past history of the elephant race, one may primarily note the more prominent members of the group which rank among the curiosities of the geologist. First in order comes the extinct mammoth—the Elephas primigenius (Fig. 3) of the naturalist. Of this huge elephant we possess considerable knowledge, inasmuch as specimens have been obtained, literally packed amid the Siberian ice, and so perfectly preserved that even the delicate tissues of the eyes could be inspected. This was the case in the famous specimen found in the frozen soil of a cliff at the mouth of the Lena in 1799. The skin of this huge elephant was then seen to be clothed with a thick coating of reddish wool interspersed with black hairs. The skeleton, removed in 1806 by Mr. Adams, and preserved in St. Petersburg, measures sixteen feet four inches in length, the height is nine feet four
inches, and the tusks measure each nine feet six inches along their curve. The mammoth's tusks appear to have had a wider curvature (Fig. 3) than those of existing elephants; and probably, like the African species, both male and female mammoths possessed these great teeth. The measurement of mammoth tusks from recent deposits in Essex gives a length of nine feet ten inches along the outer curve, and two feet five inches in circumference at the thickest part. Another specimen weighed one hundred and sixty pounds; and a dredged specimen taken off Dungeness was eleven feet long. The mammoth's tusks have long formed articles of commerce and barter in Siberia; the ivory, as Professor Owen remarks, being "so little altered as to be fit for the purposes of manufacture." The mammoth's extensive range forms not the least noteworthy point in its history. It certainly roamed farther abroad, so far as we know, than any other elephantine form. Its remains occur in Britain and in Europe generally; they have been found on the Mediterranean coast and in Siberia; and they are met with in North America as well. In Scotland and in Ireland the mammoth was apparently less plentiful, but its remains occur in these countries, where, indeed, no other elephantine remains are found. It may be added that the molar teeth of the mammoth are by no means unlike those of the Indian elephant in the arrangement and pattern of its enamel plates.
Another extinct elephant, equally famous with the mammoth, was the Mastodon—a name given to these animals in allusion to the nipple-like projections seen on the surface of the molar teeth. Their remains occur in Europe, Asia, and in North and South America. In the morasses of Ohio and Kentucky, for example, whole skeletons of these interesting elephants have been discovered. The length of the mastodon in some cases exceeded sixteen feet; and the tusks have been found to measure twelve feet in length. Over a dozen species of mastodons have been described, but they agree in certain important characters which serve to distinguish them from other elephants. Thus, the roughened teeth appear to have been adapted for bruising coarse herbs and leaves—indeed, associated with mastodon remains in America collections of leaves have been found occupying the situation in which the stomach of the animal would have been situated, and thus indicating the dietary of these extinct giants. Furthermore, a most important difference between the mastodons and other elephants is found in the fact that these animals possessed two tusks springing from the lower jaw, in addition to the tusks with which, as in ordinary elephants, the upper jaw was provided. But it would seem that these lower tusks never attained a large size, while it is probable that they fell out when the animal attained the adult period of its existence.
More extraordinary still, in respect of its variations from the ordinary structure of the elephants, was the Dinotherium (Fig. 4), the fossil remains of which occur in Europe and in India. The skull of a dinotherium has been found to measure four feet in length, while a thigh-bone was five feet three inches long. Thus, in so far as size is concerned, the dinotherium may claim a foremost place among its elephantine cousins. But various circumstances seem to suggest that the latter animal departed from the elephant type in certain important particulars, while some authorities have been even found to suggest that it represents a connecting link between the elephants and the sea-cow or manatee order (Sirenia). The tusks of dinotherium spring from the lower jaw (Fig. 4); and instead of being curved forward and upward, they bend abruptly downward and backward. The use of these tusks is extremely difficult to determine, but it has been suggested that the dinotherium was an aquatic animal, living in shallow waters, and that these huge teeth may have enabled it to root up the plants on which it fed, or have enabled it to climb, as does the living walrus, from the sea on to the river-banks.
In addition to these latter elephants, which are essentially distinct from the living species, certain extinct forms may be mentioned which, in their essential characteristics, resembled existing proboscidians more or less closely. Thus, we know that elephants closely related to the Indian species existed in Asia in Miocene times, the remains of at least six species being obtained from Indian deposits of that age; and we also know that Europe boasted of elephants in that period of geology known as the "Pliocene"; for in the deposits of France and Italy, as well as in the formations of that age in Britain, elephant remains occur. Later in point of time come the curious "pygmy elephants" of Malta, whose remains exist in that island, and whereof one (Elephas Melitensis) attained the size of a donkey, while another [Elephas Falconeri) was smaller still, and averaged two and a half or three feet in height.
The geological order and the succession in time of these various elephants is important to trace; for the unraveling of so much of the past history of the elephants as is known to us depends upon the knowledge of their succession and of the periods of their appearance and extinction. If we tabulate the rocks wherewith the past of the elephants is concerned, we may render their arrangement clear thus:
|Recent (Soils etc.)
Post-Pliocene (Ice Age).
Turning now to the past history of the elephants, we find the first chapter of that biography to open in the "Miocene" age. The earlier or "Eocene" period contains no elephant fossils, and it may have been that in this Eocene age, which beheld the first beginnings of nearly all the existing quadruped races, the evolution of the elephant stock from its ancestry was taking place. Leaving for the present the consideration of the probable root of the elephantine tree, we thus discover in the Miocene period the first beginnings of elephant existence. In this period the mastodons roamed over Europe and India, while in this age also the dinotheriums, with their great lower tusks, made their first appearance on the stage of time. As the geological series progressed, and as the Pliocene age succeeded the Miocene times, we discover the elephants in increasing numbers. The Miocene, with its relatively few elephantine forms, contrasts forcibly with the increase of those animals in the succeeding age. Europe and India harbor its Pliocene elephants, as we have seen; while both Europe and America in this latter age possessed the mastodons. The Post-Pliocene period, however, dawns in turn, to find the mastodons still existent in North America, but unknown in Europe; while the mammoth now appears as a representative form, along with survivals of the European elephants of the Pliocene time. The "pygmy elephants" of Malta also belong to the Post-Pliocene age.
Thus we discover that a distinct succession of types of elephantine forms has taken place on the earth's surface, beginning with elephants which, like the dinotherium and mastodon, differ from existent species, and ending with elephants which, like the mammoth or the European elephants of the Pliocene, more or less closely resembled the quadruped giants of to-day. It becomes interesting further to trace out the later history of the race before the bearings of these facts on the origin of the elephant race are discussed. The mammoth, for example, certainly survived the "ice-age," to the irruption of which was probably due the extinction of the other elephantine forms. We know of this survival because its remains occur in "recent" or "post-glacial" deposits. We are also certain that early man must have beheld the mammoth as a living, breathing reality, for its remains have been found associated with the rude implements of early men, and a rough portrait of the great red-haired elephant has been discovered, scratched on one of its tusks a rude but unquestionable tribute of early art to the science of zoology. Its woolly hair, protecting it against the rigors of the ice-age, may have enabled it to survive that period, which was apparently so fatal to elephant life at large.
Summing up the details we have thus collated, from the geological side, we may now face the problem of the origin of the elephant race. Not that the problem itself is fully answerable, for our knowledge of the elephant race in the past is yet of comparatively limited extent; but the main lines of the biological argument are clear enough to those who will consider, even casually, the evidence already at hand. It is thus clear that the true elephants, which belong to the Pliocene period, are ushered into existence, so to speak, by forms that are less typical elephants mastodon and dinotherium when judged by the standard of existent elephantine structure. There are various species of mastodons known to geologists, which exhibit a gradation in the matter of their teeth, and presumably in other structural aspects as well, toward the ordinary elephant type. As the mastodons precede the ordinary elephants in time, we shall not be deducing an unwarrantable inference if we maintain that the origin of the true elephants, both fossil and living forms, may safely be regarded as arising from the mastodon stock. The elephants of to-day are connected by links of obvious nature with the Pliocene and Post-Pliocene forms; and, when the "ice-age" cleared the earth of the vast majority of the species, the progenitors of our living elephants must have escaped destruction and have survived the cold, possibly in the regions wherein they now exist, just as the mammoth, in its turn, survived the rigors of the ice-period, through the presence of its woolly coating and its hardier constitution. There seems thus to be no special difficulty, either of purely geological or of intellectual nature, in conceiving that the elephants of to-day are simply survivals of that elephantine host, whose existence was well-nigh terminated by the "ice-age," and which left the mammoth, and the progenitors of our living elephants, to replenish the earth after a catastrophe as sweeping and fatal in its nature as any deluge.
But if the origin of the modern and later elephants may thus be accounted for, and if their geographical birthplace may be assumed to exist within the confines of the Old World, a more fundamental and anterior query may be put with reference to the origin of the mastodon stock, which we have supposed, and with reason, is the founder of the true elephant races. From what stock, in other words, did the mastodons themselves arise? The chain of organic causation, to be perfect and complete, can not assume the mysterious origin of the mastodon. That stock must, in its turn, have originated in an ancestry less like the elephants than itself. It is not improbable that the evolutionist of the future will seek and find the mastodon ancestry in the dinotherium group, or in some nearly related forms. For, as we have seen, the dinotherium exhibits a structure which appears to relate the elephants to other and lower quadrupeds, such as the sea-cows and their neighbors. If this supposition be permissible, then a further stage still awaits our intellectual journey in the search after the origin of the elephant races. In the Eocene rocks of North America occur the fossil remains of some extinct quadrupeds, of which the Dinoceras is the best-known form. These animals unite in a singular fashion the characters of elephants and ordinary "hoofed" quadrupeds. While they possessed horns, they also developed tusks from the eye-teeth; and, from a survey of their complete organization, Professor Marsh tells us that the position of these unique quadrupeds is intermediate between the elephants themselves and the great order to which the hoofed quadrupeds belong. Dinoceras and its neighbors precede the dinotherium and mastodon in time, and this fact alone is important as bearing on the assumed relationship of these forms.
It may thus at present be assumed with safety that the evolution of the elephants has taken place from some ancient Eocene quadruped stock, represented by the Dinoceras group, which belongs to no one group of living quadrupeds, but is intermediate in its nature, as we have already observed. From some such stock, then, we may figure the dinotherium and mastodon races to have been in due time evolved. The New World, in this light, must have been the birthplace of the elephant hosts; for the Dinoceras and its neighbors are of North American origin; migration to the Old World having taken place by continuous land-surface then existent, and the further evolution of the living species and their fossil neighbors having occurred in the Eastern hemisphere. Thus, once again we arrive at the existing races of elephants. These are simply the survivals of an ancient line of quadrupeds, whose history is simply that of every other living being—animal or plant—a history which, like the unfolding of a flower, leads us from form to form, along pathways of variation and change, and which, at last, as the ages are born and die, evolves, from the buried and forgotten races of past monsters, the no less curious and unwieldy quadruped giants of to-day.—Belgravia.