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Do hippopotamus have horns?

 

“Do hippopotamus have horns?”

 

Occasionally I like to check the keywords used on search engines that lead to our blog. This task of mine has lead me to realise that this is something that many people ask but we hadn’t covered it.

In order to answer the question “Do hippopotamus have horns?” we must first answer the following question:

 

“What is the difference between hippopotamus and rhinoceros?”

 

So why would I assume that the problem here is that you might be confusing hippos and rhinos?
The answer is quite simple. In terms of appearance, habitat and even (some) behaviour, both species can be quite similar, therefore many people sometimes get them mixed up.

So first of all let’s check out the similarities between species:

 

Both Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus are:

  • Big, heavy animals (both males and females weighing over a tonne),
  • Greyish in colour with a thick skin,
  • Mammals (babies drink milk from the mother),
  • Located in the African continent,
  • Very dangerous to humans,
  • Herbivorous (only eat plant matter),
  • Territorial (males),
  • Faster than any human on Earth (yes, even Usain Bolt),
  • Can’t swim.
White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit

 

 

Now what about the differences between these two species?

Rhinoceros:

  • Second largest land mammal,
  • There are 5 different species of rhinos: white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
  • Located in Africa and Asia,
  • Spend their day on land,
  • Have been around for about 11 million to 15 million years,
  • Don’t have any sharp teeth,
  • Are odd toed ungulates (with three toes on each foot).
  • Very threatened by illegal poaching,
  • Are one of the Big 5 species,
  • Have horn(s). The Javan and Indian species have only one horn while the black, white and sumatran species have two horns on their face.
White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) mother with baby

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) with baby
Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hippopotamus:

  • They are the third largest land mammal,
  • There are only 2 species of hippopotamus: the “normal” hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) and the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis),
  • Only located in Africa,
  • Spend most of their day inside the water (but can’t swim!),
  • Share a common ancestor with whales,
  • Have been around for 8 million to 16 million years,
  • Have very big, sharp canines and incisors (tusks), used for fighting,
  • Are even toed ungulates (with four toes on each foot),
  • Not as threatened by illegal poaching as the rhino,
  • Don’t have horns!
Mother Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby
Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So to conclude:

Hippopotamus do not have horns but they do have big tusks that they use to defend against predators or fight each other.

Rhinoceros use their horns to defend against predators and fight each other since they don’t have tusks.

 

Angry hipppopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Até à próxima!
~Sofia.

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Mystery of the Elephant Graveyard

We’ve talked a lot about Disney’s The Lion King in previous posts; there are a lot of moments in the film that can provide a bit of inspiration to learn something about African ecology. If you have seen the film, I’m sure you might remember how scary it was when Simba and Nala ventured into in the forbidden elephant graveyard. It was a dark and gloomy place beyond the edge of the pridelands, and vast piles of elephant bones could be seen as far as the eye could see. Thankfully, that eerie scene takes place in a mythological place.

A still of the lion cubs Simba and Nala from Disney's 'The Lion King' in the elephant graveyard.

Simba and Nala are suitably afraid in the spooky elephant graveyard.

The concept of an elephant graveyard is widely known and stuck in the cultural memory, however, the truth of why we think that all elephants go to one place to die, isn’t entirely known. There is definitely evidence that elephant remains can be found localised in certain spots, but why are these elephants coming together in such morbid scenarios? Before we can answer that, there are few facts we need to know about African elephants (Loxodonta Africana); about their behaviour, about their environment and about their physiology.

African elephants are herbivores, meaning they feed exclusively on plant matter such as leaves, roots and bark, and as you would imagine, they can eat a lot of it; an adult might be able to take in 450kg of food in a day. In order to get through all this food they are equipped with appropriate tools, namely a trunk and teeth. The elephant’s trunk is a remarkable, fascinating organ, but in this post, we will focus on the teeth.

Elephants only really have two types of teeth: molars and incisors. Molars are the teeth inside an elephant’s mouth; they are large and solid and used for grinding up tough materials like tree bark. Elephant tusks are actually elongated incisors, very elongated in fact. They are used for a wide range of purposes from fighting and defence to acquiring food and manipulating their environment.

An African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) uses its trunk to drink water whilst showing its impressive tusks.

Elephant tusks grow continually throughout their lives and act as useful tools.
Photo Credits.

So what do elephants’ teeth have to do with elephant graveyards? Well, elephants’ molars are continuously being replaced throughout their lives; new teeth grow in the back of their mouths and push old ones out at the front. They can cycle through six sets of molars through their lives and an elephant can live for fifty to sixty years. The tusks have a different story, they grow slowly and continuously throughout the elephant’s life and their size is regulated by constant wearing down. The fact that elephants have a predetermined number of sets of teeth means that, if they live for long enough, there will come a time when they do not have functional teeth in old age, meaning that they would struggle to process tough plant matter and could possibly be drawn to sources of water that are populated by softer and more nutritious plants. The age of these elephants also means that they ‘appreciate’ staying in an area that has dense vegetation, rather than using a lot energy looking around for food.

The remains of an African Elephant's (Loxodonta africa) jaws showing its molar and premolar teeth.

The molars of an elephant grow from the rear of the mouth and move forward like a conveyor belt as can be seen in these elephant jaws.
Photo Credits.

As the animals get even older they will be able to access less and less food and start to decline in health and inevitably die and over time, many elephants may suffer the same fate which results in their remains being deposited in the same areas. A similar cause of elephant remains accumulating may be related to their general health. As elephants get sicker, for whatever reason, be it disease or parasites, they might seek out water for rehydration, however, a sick elephant has a higher probability of dying than a healthy one and so again, a series of sick elephants may end up dying at the same water hole and their remains will accumulate over time.

So an elephant’s diet and dentition can have an impact on where they die. Of course, many elephants lose their lives from injury or predation or any number of causes and will not deposit their remains near water, however, it happens enough that early observers noted the density of elephant bones in certain areas and drew their own conclusions. There are other theories on how elephant remains accumulate, including trade stockpiles of ivory that became abandoned or even that elephants may gather up bones of their deceased compatriots, but ultimate, no one is 100% sure as to where the idea of an elephant graveyard comes from.

What we do know is that elephant bones can be found in high concentrations at certain locations, those locations are often near sources of water, ill and elderly elephants often seek out and stay close to water, ill and elderly elephants are also more likely to die and therefore, more likely to leave their remains in a localised area. So the elephant graveyard might be a real place, but it’s certainly not as dramatic and conspicuous as is depicted in fiction such as the scene in The Lion King.

Much love,

-Nick


If you liked this entry, make sure you check out our Disney category.
Other Disney entries:
Spotted Hyenas: Lions’ friends or foes?
Scar: The black maned lion
Pumbaa: What Disney didn’t tell you
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