Molars

Elephants eat such coarse vegetation, they need enormous teeth for grinding up their food.  They possess single upper and lower molars on each side of their jaw that are about 3 inches wide and 6 inches long! 


Jaw section of elephant skull, showing upper and lower molars

However, even these teeth have a limit.  Over many years, the rough vegetation gradually wears them down, and they break apart and fall out.  When this happens, new teeth which have been developing at the back of the jaw move forward to take their place.  Itís a bit like adult teeth taking the place of baby teeth in humans.  However, in elephants the new teeth come from the back, not underneath.  And, more significantly, the process repeats itself up to five times over the course of an elephantís lifetime.  This is one of the many adaptations that allow elephants to live very long lives. 

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