Ivory Poaching Leads to Rapid Evolution of Tuskless African Elephants

Intense ivory poaching during the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992) resulted in the rapid evolution of tusklessness in female African elephants amid a precipitous population decline, researchers report, resulting in a phenotype far more likely to survive in the face of poaching. The findings shed new light on the powerful selective forces human harvesting can exert on wild animal populations. The selective killing of species--whether for food, safety, or profit--has only become more common and intense as human populations and technology have grown. So much so, it's suggested that wildlife exploitation by humans has become a powerful selective driver in the evolution of targeted species. However, the resulting evolutionary signatures remain unclear.

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