Academic journal article Science Scope

The Important Role of Elephant Grandmothers

Academic journal article Science Scope

The Important Role of Elephant Grandmothers

Article excerpt

Grandmothers often provide vital childcare in human communities across the world. In traditional societies, such help increases grandchildren's survival prospects and leads to shorter birth intervals for the daughters. A new study shows that a similar phenomenon exists among the elephants in Myanmar.

"We found that calves of young elephant mothers under 20 years of age had eight times lower mortality risk if the grandmother resided in the same location compared to calves whose grandmother was not present," says Dr. Mirkka Lahdenpera, the lead author of the study.

Resident grandmothers also decreased their daughters' interbirth intervals by one year, so that altogether more grandcalves were born when the grandmothers were part of the family. Grandmothers with their own recent calves were as beneficial to their daughter's calves as grandmothers who had already stopped reproducing.

The research group found that the more calves the grandmother had nurtured herself before the grandcalf was born, the better survival chances her grandcalf had. The results suggest that experience is important for the survival of the calves.

Elephants have a lifespan of up to 80 years and naturally live in highly social family groups containing many generations of females and their calves. …

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