Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Teen elephant mothers die younger but have bigger families, University of Sheffield research finds

07.03.2014

Asian elephants that give birth as teenagers die younger than older mothers but raise bigger families during their lifetime, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.

Experts from the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences studied the reproductive lives of 416 Asian elephant mothers in Myanmar, Burma, and found those that had calves before the age of 19 were almost two times more likely to die before the age of 50 than those that had their first offspring later.

However, elephants that entered motherhood at an earlier age had more calves following their teenage years than those that started reproducing after the age of 19.

The team's findings will help maximise fertility in captive and semi-captive elephants, reducing the strain on the endangered wild population.

Research found that Asian elephants, which can live into their 70s, could give birth from the age of five.

Yet surprisingly, for a species that live as long as humans do, their fertility peaked on average at the age of 19 before declining.

The team also found elephants that gave birth twice in their teenage years had calves three times more likely to survive to independence than those born to mothers who had their first young after the age of 19.

Therefore, although having calves as a teenager reduced a mother's lifespan, early reproduction was favoured by natural selection because those mothers raised the largest families in their lifetime.

Dr Adam Hayward, of the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: "Understanding how maternal performance changes with age and impacts on later-life survival and fertility is important. Asian elephants are endangered in the wild and low fertility in captivity necessitates acquisition of elephants from the wild every year to maintain captive populations.

"Our research was carried out on semi-captive Asian elephants working in timber camps in Myanmar.

"As religious icons in South-east Asia and a key species of the forest ecosystem, their decline is of serious cultural and ecological concern.

"Our results will enable the management of captive and semi-captive elephants to be tailored to maximise fertility, reducing strain on the wild population."

Virpi Lummaa, Reader of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield, added: "We rarely get the opportunity to study how other species with a lifespan similar to humans grow old.

"This study represents a unique analysis of the ageing process in a similarly long-lived mammal.

"It also supports the evolutionary theory that selection for high fertility in early life is energetically demanding, which accelerates declines in survival rates with age which are typical of most animals."

###

The study of elephants, which lived between the 1940s and the present day, was funded by the NERC and the Leverhulme Trust and is published today in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

Notes to editors:

The University of Sheffield

With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world's leading universities.

A member of the UK's prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2011 it was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards and in the last decade has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

For further information, please visit http://www.sheffield.ac.uk

For further information please contact: Hannah Postles, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 222 1046 or email h.postles@sheffield.ac.uk

To read other news releases about the University of Sheffield, visit http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news

Hannah Postles | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Biology Evolutionary birth elephants fertility humans lifespan species strain

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>