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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Video: Old Female Elephants Make the Best Leaders
15 March 2011 8:01 pm
What good is an older female elephant to her herd, especially one in her 60s and well-beyond her prime reproductive years? She's the best leader and the one most capable of making wise decisions, according to a study of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kenya's Amboseli National Park that was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The oldest female in an elephant herd is always the leader. Researchers tested the decision-making skills of these matriarchs by playing recordings of lions roaring; they monitored the elephants' reactions to the roars of a single lion versus three lions for both male and female lions. Because of their size and heft, single male lions can pose a greater threat to elephants than do female lions. The oldest matriarchs proved best at recognizing a male lion's roar, as 66-year-old Joyce does in this video. When she hears the three male lions, she bunches her herd in a tight phalanx to ward off a possible attack. The study provides the first experimental evidence that the members of a herd benefit from an older leader—a discovery, the researchers say, that also shows how vital it is to protect the elders (who usually have the biggest tusks) from ivory poachers.
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