Elephant Evolution

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The Idea of natural selection is that it can change a species of animals but the result is not only from nature itself but people can be a part of the evolution. For example, elephants are beginning to lose their tusks and this is caused by poachers who hunt them exclusively for their tusks. Now, their tusks havent fully vanished yet, but it is apparent that they are getting smaller and smaller. This evolution happend at lighting speed being  just 150 years ago it started happening. Usually evolution takes thousands of years to start making a difference. The ancestor of elephants, mammoths and mastodons was a pig-size animal with an upper lip like a tapir that lived about 55 million years ago. As these creatures evolved their heads got small and their upper lip became longer and more flexible until it became a trunk. For the current elephants,It can probably become a factor of how often these elephants are hunted and they are evolving to protect themselves from their number 1 predator: poachers. It makes sense because without tusks they won’t be valuable anymore.It used to be that the elephants with the larger tusks survived longer because they could protect themselves an their tribe better. Now the smaller elpehants with the smaller tusks are the ones who are surviving. Elephants have decided to take the matter into their own hands and in due time elephants will probably become smaller and tusk less.  Humans have a vast effect on species when they senselessly hunt them for their own benefit, they don’t see the permanent changes they are making in the whole genome. It’s amazing how a species can evolve in order to work against their enemy and it seems as if this process might actually speed up if their can be a danger of extinction.This is a great example of natural selection and it shows that the length of time it takes is not definite and people have a larger impact than they may think.

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2 thoughts on “Elephant Evolution

  1. That’s amazing! I’ve heard elephants are highly intelligent and have been proven to communicate in the wild with each other over large distances. This just proves their intelligence further, they recognize what the threat is and as well are stressed to the point of change by it. (unlike a less intelligent creature that would just die out before it has a chance) I really do hope they out smart us humans and get rid of their tusks fast!

  2. I wanted to point out that it isn’t the intelligence of the elephants that is causing the tusks to be smaller and smaller–rather the process of selection. As the elephants with the larger tusks are hunted and are not given the ability to reproduce, it gives the smaller tusked elephants a better chance at reproduction. If the tusk size is heredity (and I assume it is), we would expect that the offspring of that elephant would have smaller tusks and thus less appealing to the poachers.

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