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What Are the Elephant's Closest Living Relatives?

Elephants are most closely related to manatees (also known as sea cows) and hyraxes (small, weasel-like land animals). Though these three animals are very different in physical shape and size — African elephants can weigh up to 14,000 lbs (6,350 kg), while manatees can weigh up to 1,200 lbs (544 kg) and hyraxes only 12 lbs (5.4 kg) — they do have some similarities. All three have two mammary glands, a circular heart, and a similar arrangement of teeth.

More about elephants, manatees, and hyraxes:

  • Elephants are the only surviving members of the Proboscidea order, which used to include wooly mammoths, mastodons, and gomphotheres (which looked like elephants but had four tusks and shovel-like jaws).

  • Fossil records indicate that before evolving to their current size, hyraxes may have been the size of large cows.

  • There may be something to the saying that an elephant never forgets: they have very large temporal lobes in their brains, which are used for memory.

  • A manatee's age can be calculated by counting the number of rings in its ear bones.
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