How many species of elephant? (with bonus rants)

Why Evolution Is True

If you follow the popular science press, or read the evolution blogs, you’ve probably heard that, according a new paper in PLos Biology by Rohland et al., scientists have added another species of elephant to the two we have already.  Up to now we all knew about the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).  Besides being located on different continents, these two species differ in size (the Asian is smaller) and other morphological traits (Asians have much smaller ears and, unlike Africans, only the males are tusked).

Previously, though, the Africans were divided into two subspecies, L. africana africana, called the “savanna” or “bush” elephant, and L. africana cyclotis, the “forest elephant.”  These subspecies differ in morphology (though not as strongly as the African vs. Asian species), ecology—well, at least location; they are, as their names indicate, found in different habitats, although…

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