Indian elephants have small ears because they do not live in a climate requiring more ear flap surface to release heat, according to Associate Professor Arunn Narasimhan. Ear flaps help the elephant release heat from the body through the large number of capillaries that flow through them.
Warm-blooded animals use various means to regulate body temperature. One way is by regulating blood flow. Constriction of blood vessels prevents heat from being transferred outside the body, while dilation enhances heat transfer. African elephants have larger ears than their Indian counterparts. They need the extra surface area because of the hotter conditions in which they live.