Tuskless Elephants Are Evolving to Evade Poachers

By Mona Delgado, age 10 and IndyKids staff

By Mona Delgado, age 10 and IndyKids staff

Researchers at Princeton University have discovered that many African elephants are evolving to not have their signature look: tusks. During the Mozambique Civil War, from 1977 to 1992, humans killed so many elephants that the species has evolved to become tuskless.

In the region that’s now known as Gorongosa National Park, almost 90% of all elephants were killed for their tusks. People wanted tusks for ivory, which is seen as being very valuable. Tusks are like long teeth and are helpful for many things. They help elephants dig for water and strip tree bark. Without their tusks, life can be a little bit more difficult.

Tusklessness was once a rare genetic trait; however, it is now becoming more common. Only female elephants can be tuskless, and 18.5% of them were tuskless before the war. Now that number has risen to 33%. The genetic trait is not good news for male elephants, as it frequently causes them to die before they are born. Ultimately, this human-forced evolution may cause more problems for elephants.

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