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SPECIES Elephas maximus

Author:Linnaeus, 1758.
Citation:Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1: 33.
Common Name:Asian Elephant
Type Locality:"Zeylonae" [Sri Lanka].
Distribution:Thirteen countries in SE Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east.
Status:CITES Appendix I; U.S. ESA and IUCN Endangered.
Comments:See Shoshani and Eisenberg (1982, Mammalian Species, 182), who identified three subspecies of the Asian elephant: E. m. sumatranus from the island of Sumatra, E. m. indicus from mainland Asia, and E. m. maximus from the island of Sri Lanka. See also Deraniyagala (1955). Colin Groves (pers. comm., 2002) suggested that based on small measurements and restricted ear depigmentation, the Malay elephant (hirsutus Lydekker 1914) and the Borneo elephant (borneensis Deraniyagala, 1950) should be synonyms of sumatranus Temminck, 1847. Similarly, based on geographic grounds, the Javan elephant (sondaicus Deraniyagala, 1953) should be a synonym of sumatranus Temminck, 1847. This is not followed because the Sumatran elephant is distinguished from other Asian subspecies by its 20 instead of 19 pairs of ribs. In addition, the elephants of Borneo are believed to be feral descendants introduced in the 1750s (details in Shoshani and Eisenberg, 1982). E. m. sondaicus was designated by subfossil tooth from Java (Deraniyagala, 1955:41), no other data such as number of ribs is given. Based on DNA isolated from dung, Fernando et al. (2003) concluded that elephants from Sabah and Sarawak (Borneo) are "genetically distinct, with molecular divergence indicative of a Pleistocene colonisation of Borneo and subsequent isolation." These authors suggested, however "that a formal reinstatement of the subspecies E. m. borneensis await a detailed morphological analysis of Borneo elephants and their comparison with other populations." E. m. borneensis was first described by Deraniyagala in 1950. I concur with Fernando et al.'s (2003) opinion that there should also be morphological differences among the recognized Asian elephant subspecies. Characters suggested by Deraniyagala (1955) and by Shoshani (2000) include: overall body size, ear size, tusk size and shape (e.g., straight vs. curved), number of ribs (20 vs. 19 pairs), amount of bodily depigmentation, and habitat (forest vs. savanna).
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Offspring:

SUBSPECIES maximus

SUBSPECIES indicus

SUBSPECIES sumatranus

Synonyms:


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