Elephants are the largest land animals on Earth.
They have characteristic long noses, or trunks; large, floppy ears; and wide, thick legs.
There are two species of elephant.
The Asian elephant and the African elephant live on separate continents and have many unique features.
There are several subspecies that belong to one or the other of these two main species, though there is disagreement over just how many subspecies there are.
They are slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears that look somewhat like the continent of Africa. (Asian elephants have smaller, rounded ears.)
are a keystone species, meaning they play a critical role in their ecosystem.
Also known as "ecosystem engineers," elephants shape their habitat in many ways.
During the dry season, they use their tusks to dig up dry riverbeds and create watering holes many animals can drink from.
Their dung is full of seeds, helping plants spread across the environment—and it makes pretty good habitat for dung beetles too!
In the forest, their feasting on trees and shrubs creates pathways for smaller animals to move through, and in the savanna,
they uproot trees and eat saplings, which helps keep the landscape open for zebras and other plains animals to thrive.