Thursday 17 December 2020

BBC: Ivory: Elephant decline revealed by shipwreck cargo


image captionThe ancient ivory contained genetic secrets that could be used to protect elephants today

Researchers have examined ancient DNA preserved in elephant tusks that were among the cargo of a 487-year-old shipwreck.

Their forensic examination of the 100 tusks pinpointed the devastation caused to the elephant population by centuries of ivory trade. 

On this single ship, researchers found genetic evidence of 17 distinct herds of the threatened animals. 

Today, scientists can find only four of those herds surviving in Africa. 

The tusks were so well preserved - in cold water off the Namibian coast - that scientists were even able to find out what type of diet the elephants had, which revealed where they had lived and been hunted. 

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

Read on...

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