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Brain Res Bull. 2001 Jan 15;54(2):219-27.

An overview of the central nervous system of the elephant through a critical appraisal of the literature published in the XIX and XX centuries.

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Department of Animal Science, University of Padua, Legnaro, Padua, Italy.


The two species of elephants (Indian: Elephas maximus and African: Loxodonta africana) possess the largest brain among land mammals. Due to its size, the elephant brain is discussed in virtually every paper dealing with the evolution of the central nervous system of mammals and comparative brain size. Studies on the social habits of elephants also deal with the skills and the "intelligence" and brain size of these species. Yet most of the descriptions and conclusions reported in comparative studies rely on second-hand data derived from investigations performed several decades before, often dating as far back as the XIX century. Furthermore, many of the original papers actually describing gross and detailed features of the brain of elephants are either no longer available, are written in languages other than English, or are difficult to trace. The present study gives a short description of the anatomy of the central nervous system of elephants, with special attention to its distinctive features, reports all available literature on the subject, and briefly discusses its origins and rationale.

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