Poachers have accelerated the evolution of African elephants, which are more likely to be born without tusks due to the hunt for them. About it informs scientific journal Science.
A team of evolutionary biologist Shane Campbell-Stateon of Princeton University conducted mathematical simulations to prove this hypothesis. By studying elephant genomes, scientists have identified two likely candidate genes: AMELX and MEP1a, which in humans are involved in the growth of incisors – the equivalent of canines and tusks.
Moreover, the absence of tusks is observed only in female elephants. Scientists have suggested that this is due to a mutation in the X chromosome, which is fatal to the male. Genetic changes have resulted in fewer male elephants being born overall, which could slow population recovery even as poaching in African parks has declined.
As noted by the researchers, the ivory trade was used to finance the civil war in Mozambique from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Poaching has led to a 90% decline in the elephant population in Gorongos National Park, from over 2,500 animals to about 200 in the early 2000s.
At the same time, if before the war about 18.5% of females had no tusks by nature, then among 91 female elephants born after the war, this share increased to 33%.
In addition, scientists noted that animals without fangs eat other food, mainly grass. Elephants with tusks can rip the bark off trees. Changes in the diet of a new population could change the entire landscape of the African savannah.