Elephants belong to the family Elephantidae, the sole remaining family within the order Proboscidea which belongs to the superorder Afrotheria. Their closest extant relatives are the sirenians (dugongs and manatees) and the hyraxes, with which they share the clade Paenungulata within the superorder Afrotheria.Elephants and sirenians are further grouped in the clade Tethytheria.
Three species of elephants are recognised; the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) and forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) of sub-Saharan Africa, and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) of South and Southeast Asia.African elephants have larger ears, a concave back, more wrinkled skin, a abdomen sloping, and two finger-like extensions at the tip of the trunk. Asian elephants have smaller ears, a convex or level back, smoother skin, a horizontal abdomen that occasionally sags in the middle and one extension at the tip of the trunk. The looped ridges on the molars are narrower in the Asian elephant while those of the African are more diamond-shaped. The Asian elephant also has dorsal bumps on its head and some patches of depigmentation on its skin.