Elephants evolving to lose their tusks to escape poaching

The speed of their genetic changes in Mozambique was decribed as 'astonishing'.

10/23/2021 3:00:00 PM

The speed of their genetic changes in Mozambique was decribed as 'astonishing'.

The speed of their genetic changes in Mozambique was decribed as 'astonishing'.

The speed of the pivot to tusklessness was decribed as ‘astonishing’ (Picture: ElephantVoices/AP)A hefty set of tusks is usually an advantage for elephants, letting them dig for water, strip bark for food and joust with rivals.But amid episodes of intense ivory poaching, those big incisors become a liability.

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Scientists have now detailed how Mozambique’s civil war of 1977-1992 has spawned a new generation of tuskless elephants.After their population in Gorongosa National Park fell by 90% as they were slaughtered in huge numbers for their valuable ivory, the large mammals responded by going tuskless.

Genetic variations of their X chromosome caused the proportion of tuskless female elephants to soar – from less than a fifth to more than half.The trend continued after the war ended, leading researchers to conclude the trait had been inherited.They also found increasing numbers of male elephants who received the chromosome with the tuskless variant were dying in their mother’s womb. headtopics.com

A tuskless elephant matriarch with her two calves (Picture: ElephantVoices/AP)A herd of tuskless elephants in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique (Picture: ElephantVoices/AP)‘When mothers pass it on, we think the sons likely die early in development, a miscarriage,’ said Brian Arnold, a co-author and evolutionary biologist at Princeton University.

The study was published on Thursday in the journal Science. Read more: Metro »

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Female African elephants are rapidly evolving to become TUSKLESSRemaining elephants are more likely to be tuskless, meaning their children were also born tuskless, according to the team from Princeton University in New Jersey. gmarie55 They're smarter than we are. Very interesting. This means that their genetics changed, it seems.

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