Animal Diaries Archive
27 April 2007
Asian elephants differ from African elephants in many ways, perhaps one of the most characteristic differences is the pink markings that only Asian elephants have around their trunk, face and ears. Normally elephants are dark grey/black all over, however some Asian elephants have pink spots on their skin, which become very visible when their skin is clean from dirt and mud.
There are many theories as to how these markings came about and one involves the theory of evolution. Asian elephants are more closely related to the extinct woolly mammoth than the African elephant. These elephant relatives lived in cold areas and had long, woolly coats to protect them from freezing temperatures. The skin underneath the hair was most likely pink in colour.
Through evolution, the elephants eventually lost their hair, and their skin turned to grey in order to adapt to the environment. Today the Asian elephant still has some of that pink coloration showing through skin. This is because an elephant gets it colour from the grey pigmentation in its skin and as it ages it gradually fades so the skin looks pink!