"Forest elephants are the heart of these ecosystems -- without them, the system falls apart, and many other species are jeopardized," said the principal investigator of this research, Alfred Roca, a professor of animal sciences at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES).
African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are morphologically and genetically distinct from their iconic larger cousins, the African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) that populate the grasslands of Eastern and Southern Africa. Forest elephants are smaller with straighter tusks and live in the rainforests of Central and West Africa where they maintain tropical ecosystems through seed dispersal and germination, as well as nutrient recycling and herbivory.
Ecology - Evolution - Study - DNA - Elephants
Published in Ecology and Evolution, this recent study analyzed the nuclear DNA of 94 forest elephants from six locations. Forest elephant nuclear DNA is genetically diverse, yet this diversity is consistent across populations throughout Central Africa -- any differences are too small to warrant treating them as distinct subspecies.
This nuclear DNA lacks the geographic patterns preserved in forest elephants' mitochondrial DNA, the small proportion of the genome that is passed...
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