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 MACC1 Gene Is an Independent Prognostic Biomarker for Survival in Klatskin Tumor Patients
31.08.2015 | Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

nachricht Fish Oil-Diet Benefits May be Mediated by Gut Microbes
28.08.2015 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.

Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...

Im Focus: Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests

Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.

"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...

Im Focus: OU astrophysicist and collaborators find supermassive black holes in quasar nearest Earth

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...

Im Focus: What would a tsunami in the Mediterranean look like?

A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...

Im Focus: Self-healing landscape: landslides after earthquake

In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.

These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking conference in Heidelberg for outstanding mathematicians and computer scientists

20.08.2015 | Event News

Scientists meet in Münster for the world’s largest Chitin und Chitosan Conference

20.08.2015 | Event News

Large agribusiness management strategies

19.08.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Siemens sells 18 industrial gas turbines to Thailand

01.09.2015 | Press release

An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

01.09.2015 | Materials Sciences

New material science research may advance tech tools

01.09.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>