Elephants

Elephants in Africa are actually evolving to lose their tusks in order to evade poachers. There were about a million elephants in 1989 when the international ban on ivory poaching was instituted - of that number, about 7.5% of them were being poached each year. Fast forward to today, and fewer than half of them remain. 

The elephants responded to this existential threat by evolving to be born without tusks. Queen Elizabeth National Park researchers in Uganda discovered that 15% of female elephants and 9% of male elephants are now being born without tusks. Experts have theorized that this adaption will make them a less attractive target to poachers, helping them to survive. Unfortunately, elephant tusks are important tools, used for things like digging for roots and to help male elephants fight one another for mates during rutting season. This means that mother nature decided that poachers are a greater threat to elephant survival than tusks being used to find foot or mates.

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Most animals don’t have grandmas. But elephants do. And what Granny does is awesome.

Elephants often live in large families made up of babies, juveniles, and females. They’re often led by the oldest of these females, which often have a really important social role in their families.

Professor Phyllis Lee wanted to know more about how these families worked. And in her research, she found something surprising — having a grandma made a huge difference in whether a new baby survived.

“It was an unexpected finding for us,” said Lee. “We didn’t think we’d find that very positive relationship between having a grandmother present and how well the daughters were doing in terms of reproduction.”