Age, musth and paternity success in wild male African elephants, Loxodonta africana
Male African elephants experience intense intrasexual selection in gaining access to oestrous females, who represent a very scarce and highly mobile resource. An unusual combination of behavioural and physiological traits in males probably reflects this intense selection pressure. Males show prolonged growth, growing throughout much or perhaps all of their long life span (ca. 60-65 years), and they show musth, a physiological and behavioural condition exclusive to elephants, which is manifested by bouts of elevated testosterone and aggression and heightened sexual activity. Most observed matings are by males over 35 years of age and in musth, suggesting that age and musth are both important factors contributing to male reproductive success. Here we report the results of a genetic paternity analysis of a well-studied population of wild African elephants. Patterns of paternity for 119 calves born over a 22-year period showed significant effects of both age and musth on paternity success. Among males in musth, paternity success increased significantly with age until the very oldest age classes, when it modestly declined. When not in musth, males experienced relatively constant, low levels of paternity success at all ages. Thus, despite the importance of both musth and age in determining male paternity success, adult males both in and out of musth, and of all ages, produced calves. In general, however, older males had markedly elevated paternity success compared with younger males, suggesting the possibility of sexual selection for longevity in this species. © 2007 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
Hollister-Smith, JA; Poole, JH; Archie, EA; Vance, EA; Georgiadis, NJ; Moss, CJ; Alberts, SC
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