“Our study shows that it takes a long time – upwards of 20 years – for a family who has lost its kin to rebuild,” said lead researcher Kathleen Gobush, Ph.D., a research ecologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and a former doctoral student at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology.
African elephants rely heavily on matriarchs to lead groups and keep families together. Before the 1989 ban on ivory trade, nearly 75 percent of all elephants in Tanzania’s Mikumi National Park were killed. Poachers targeted those with the largest tusks – particularly older matriarchs. “A lot of these females lost their sisters and mothers, and were left living a solitary existence,” said Sam Wasser, Ph.D., director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington. “So the question became, what are the long-term impacts on the genetic relatedness of groups?”
In search of an answer, the scientists tracked more than 100 groups of elephants living in Mikumi National Park. They assessed the lasting effects of poaching on group size, relatedness, and social bonding by comparing information about each group with previous reports of protected populations.
The researchers found that elephants in Mikumi formed unusually small groups, with nearly a third of the females living alone. Interestingly, some of the elephants chose to forge new bonds with unrelated groups after their own kin had perished.
“When we saw the solitary females, we initially thought that some lucky elephants still had their families, while other elephants had lost it all,” Gobush said. “But we actually saw a flexibility in their behavior. Some elephants were able to find their way and create new bonds with unrelated female elephants, while others did not.”
The researchers say it is unclear how long the effects will persist, especially in light of the recent increase in illegal ivory trade. But one thing is certain: Poaching continues to introduce major disruptions in the African elephant’s family tree at a substantial cost.
“Elephants are very long-lived animals. They are extremely social, and there’s a tremendous amount of group integrity and competitive ability,” Wasser said. “It’s been nearly 20 years since the ivory ban and there are still incredibly persistent impacts of illegal culling on these populations.”
Finbar Galligan | alfa
Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society
Calcium may play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease
19.02.2018 | University of Cambridge
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Information Technology
19.02.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences