'Rapid evolution' of tuskless elephants caused by ivory trade, scientists say

Ivory poaching has led to a 'rapid evolution' of tuskless African elephants, as elephants without tusks were more likely to survive during the height of the ivory trade

10/22/2021 12:07:00 PM

Ivory poaching has led to a 'rapid evolution' of tuskless African elephants, as elephants without tusks were far more likely to survive during the height of the ivory trade, according to new research.

Ivory poaching has led to a 'rapid evolution' of tuskless African elephants, as elephants without tusks were more likely to survive during the height of the ivory trade

The elephant population in the region declined more than 90% due to the war, and the mass hunting of the mammals for their tusks resulted in a phenotype of the species that had a better chance of survival -- specifically, female elephants.During the conflict, a tuskless female would have five times the chances of survival than a female with a tusk, Shane Campbell-Staton, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University, told ABC News.

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"So it actually seems to be a very strong selection over a very short period of time," he said.ElephantVoicesA herd of elephants stands with its matriarch in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.The explanation for the trait evolving in female elephants and not males has to do with the genetics of tooth development, according to the study. Specifically, an X chromosome male-lethal syndrome that diminishes the growth of lateral incisors,

Campbell-Staton began hearing about the rise of"tusklessness" elephants years ago when he was in graduate school, but the research to find an explanation for the phenomenon had not yet occurred, he said.MORE: African elephants now listed as critically endangered after dramatic population declines headtopics.com

"In regions where there's intensive poaching, there seem to be more animals without tusks," he said."But we had no idea what was going on, why it happened ... the degree with which it happened."The scientists investigated the impacts of ivory hunting on the evolution of African elephants in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, during and after the civil war.

ElephantVoicesMatriarch Valda with her son in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.The findings shed new light on just how powerful an effect human exploitation can have on wildlife populations, the researchers said."The selective killing of species – whether for food, safety, or profit – has only become more common and intense as human populations and technology have grown," the authors wrote."So much so, it's suggested that wildlife exploitation by humans has become a powerful selective driver in the evolution of targeted species."

MORE: Poaching likely created a generation of tuskless elephants, scientists sayHowever, if the ivory trade were to continue to decline and elephant populations were to rebound, there is a chance that the evolution of tuskless elephants could be reversed, Campbell-Staton said, adding that researchers already see this to be the case.

ElephantVoicesMatriarch, iJunia, stands with her two calves in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.In Gorongosa National Park, which he described as a"success story" due to the climbing population, the children of female elephants that survived the war are inheriting the trait, but only by about 50%, Campbell-Staton said. headtopics.com

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Humans are horrible. Or stain the tusks so they are useless to humans Period🙏💖🐘💖🙏 I wonder if this is also the reason for hornless triceratops? Hmmm. We need hunters to start hunting poachers instead. Too bad tusks didn’t evolve to be extremely toxic and cancerous to humans. 😭😭😭they use the tusks to defend themselves against other animals 😭

𝐖𝐞 𝐃𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐒𝐚𝐟𝐞𝐭𝐲 𝐎𝐟 𝐁𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐡𝐢 𝐇𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐬 ✊✊ SaveBangladeshiHindus SaveBangladeshiHindu SaveHinduTemples SaveHumanRights SaveHindu savehindufestivals StopCommunalAttack BangladeshiHinduWantSafety WeDemandSafety WeDemandJustice So start poaching the poachers. Hopefully they will have a chance to survive now.