Why elephants are evolving smaller tusks

January 20th, 2008 - 1:41 pm ICT by admin  

London, Jan 20 (ANI): According to conservation experts, elephants are developing smaller tusks due to pressure from hunting and poaching for ivory.

The researchers have found that the average tusk size of African elephants has halved since the mid-19th century and a similar effect is spotted in the Asian elephant population in India.

The research team said that it is an example of Darwinism in action, caused by the mass slaughter of dominant male elephants, but whereas evolution normally takes place over thousands of years, these changes have occurred within 150 years.

Zoologists at Oxford University fear that poaching and hunting of the largest male elephants, which also have the largest tusks, has changed the natural breeding behaviour of these animals.

The research shows that the hunting of large male elephants for their ivory allows smaller males with shorter tusks to produce more calves. Over time the average tusk size decreases.

“What appears to be the case is that average tusk sizes have decreased greatly since the mid-19th century. The data comes from the trade statistics and from records of hunters around Africa who find that large trophies are very much harder to find, the Telegraph quoted Iain Douglas Hamilton, from the conservation charity Save the Elephants and co-author of the study, as saying.

“While some of this may be due to an absence of older animals, it is possible there has been a genetic selection pressure against large tusk size that outweighs their usefulness in contests with other males in winning females, Hamilton added. (ANI)

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