Journal of Ethology

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 205–210 | Cite as

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

  • T. N. C. Vidya
  • R. SukumarEmail author
Short Communication


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.


Asian elephant Elephas maximus Male dispersal Microsatellite DNA Relatedness Social organization Southern India 



Fieldwork was funded by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and samples were collected with research permissions from the state forest departments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The molecular work was supported by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service–Asian Elephant Conservation Fund (USFWS-AECF) and the Columbia University Laboratory for Genetic Investigation and Conservation (LOGIC). We thank Prof. Don Melnick and Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando of Columbia University for their support and help. Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan collected the set of mother-offspring samples we used to test for Mendelian inheritance of microsatellite loci. Mr. K. Krishna, Mr. R. Mohan, and several forest department trackers provided field assistance. We thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped us in improving this manuscript. This work constitutes part of the doctoral thesis of T.N.C.V.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

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