Posted in Africa, Elephants, Nature, Photography, Travel

Baby Teeth

African elephant calves develop deciduous tusks called tushes that grow up to five centimeters (two inches) in length and fall out when the elephant is between 6 to 12 months of age. Tushes consist of crown, root and pulp. They provide the foundation and orientation of permanent tusks, which are extensions of an elephant’s only incisor. Permanent tusks grow approximately 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) per year and grow throughout an elephant’s lifetime. This young elephant is about three or four years old. Female tusks grow at a slower rate, so her permanent tusks are just beginning to show.


I’ve never thought of baby teeth as deciduous, like the shed leaves on trees. Who knew that elephants have baby teeth?

photograph by Cheryl Merrill
photograph by Cheryl Merrill


Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

5 thoughts on “Baby Teeth

  1. A few years ago, when I was still teaching, I shared a small low ability group and taught them English a couple of times a week. They had low reading levels, so I got them to read a wide range of short, interesting fiction and non-fiction texts, including a lovely information pack from IFAW about elephants. They loved it and that made me happy as I love elephants. At the end of the half term, I got them to write a haiku about elephants, which they wrote on cut-out, coloured-in pictures of elephants and displayed in the classroom. When I changed the display at a later date they made sure I kept the elephants.

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