Friday, 18 December 2015

Elephant Daughters Step into Murdered Matriarchs' Roles

by Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | December 17, 2015 01:54pm

When older members of an elephant family are killed, younger female elephants assume the roles once held by their mothers, maintaining the networks that keep extended families together, a new study has found. 

Over a 16-year period, researchers evaluated the changing social dynamics in groups of elephants in western Kenya as mature matriarchs were killed by poachers who hunt elephants for the ivory in their tusks. Not only did younger female elephants take up new social positions when an older matriarch died, but the links they forged with other elephant daughters mirrored connections once held by their mothers. 

Earlier research had established that elephant social structure is highly complex. In the new study, the researchers analyzed relationships within groups of elephants over time, to understand how their social positions and connections could grow and change.

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