, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 205-210

Social organization of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) in southern India inferred from microsatellite DNA

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Abstract

Social organization of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is not well understood in the absence of long-term studies of identified individuals. Adult Asian elephant females and their young offspring of both sexes form matriarchal groups, with pubertal males dispersing from natal groups, but whether these social groups represent families and whether males show locational or social dispersal were unknown. Using nuclear microsatellite loci amplified from dung-extracted DNA of free-ranging elephants in a large southern Indian population, we demonstrate that female-led herds comprise closely related individuals that are indeed families, and that males exhibit non-random locational dispersal.