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Scientists Reconstruct the Complex Evolutionary History of Elephants

A depiction of the ancient straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus). Illustration by Carl Buell.

An international team of scientists, including the IIDR’s Dr. Hendrik Poinar, reconstruct the complex evolutionary history of elephants in what is thought to be one of the most comprehensive genomic studies about elephants to date. Involving three living species of elephants and their mammoth and mastodon ancestors, the team generated 14 genomes to reveal how several hybridization events played fundamental roles in the evolution towards the modern elephant. The results also show that modern elephants of different species no longer mate with each other as their ancestors have – findings that raise questions about the future of these species and shed light on the need for greater conservation efforts.

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