Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study of African forest elephants helps guide research efforts in US

Date:
January 7, 2014
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
Researchers are employing genotyping to study movement patterns of African forest elephants in protected and unprotected regions of Gabon to better understand how human occupation of these areas might affect elephants on the African continent. Genotyping is helping conservation biologists determine the best course of action to ensure biodiversity and the preservation of various species in the US and abroad.

Genotyping of male African forest elephant calves like this one from the Ivory Coast are helping researchers determine migration patterns in Africa.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Lori Eggert

Conservation of a protected or endangered species requires frequent monitoring and the dynamic techniques biologists utilize to ensure the survival of threatened animals. Often, scientists study biodiversity at all levels -- from genes to entire ecosystems. Currently, researchers at the University of Missouri are employing genotyping to study movement patterns of African forest elephants in protected and unprotected regions of Gabon to better understand how human occupation of these areas might affect elephants on the African continent. Genotyping is helping conservation biologists determine the best course of action to ensure biodiversity and the preservation of various species in the U.S. and abroad.

Related Articles


"Many times, analyzing dangerous animals with a hands-on approach is risky, so genetic samples and traces collected through hair samples, fecal samples, and other noninvasive means offer a safer technique to examine species," said Lori Eggert, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts & Science at MU. "In Africa, protected areas are often designed around sites that support endangered species such as large mammals. We were tasked with studying elephants outside a protected region in an area that includes humans, oil-drilling platforms and disturbances by machinery. We examined population structure, movement patterns, and habitat use by sex and age group. We also studied how the elephants moved between the protected regions and the unprotected regions during wet and dry seasons."

Between 2002 and 2011, the population of Central African forest elephants declined by 62 percent and their geographic range decreased by 30 percent. The largest remaining concentration of this species, approximately 53,000 individuals, is in Gabon where officials have established 13 national parks designated as habitats for elephants. Eggert and fellow researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), as well as other international scientists, were tasked with determining movement between two of the parks that were separated by an unprotected area and how the elephants migrated between them. What the scientists found was that the interconnected region not designated as a national park provides year-round habitat for elephants and is important to the conservation of the species.

"We discovered that elephants tend to use the unprotected area as much as they do the protected parks," said Eggert. "A resident population exists in the unprotected area, even though drilling occurs there and humans are present. Some of the elephants seem to consider this their home range and, instead of moving back and forth between the national parks, they inhabit the unprotected area during the rainy and dry seasons. What perhaps is most important is that a relatively large number of females inhabit this area, making this region much more important than we first realized."

Eggert's fellow researchers collected samples from elephant droppings in the unprotected area and in the national parks, and sent more than 1,000 samples back to Eggert and her lab team who extracted DNA and genotyped them at the SCBI and at MU. She and her colleagues detected more than 500 elephants in the unprotected area during both the wet and dry seasons suggesting that region supported a resident population.

"Elephants are considered to be a 'keystone' species, or a species that is especially important to the health of ecosystems in Africa," Eggert said. "We're all affected by the health of the forests in Africa, Central America and here in the U.S. The fact that elephants are surviving in a place where drilling for oil is happening is exciting and gives us a glimpse at how to study species in our own country."

Eggert said the work she and her team conducted with elephants in Africa involves methods used to study species worldwide. Her lab recently worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation to analyze black bears in Missouri and Arkansas, and also has collaborated on the analysis of otters and hellbenders in Missouri rivers.

Her study, "Using genetic profiles of African forest elephants to infer population structure, movements, and habitat use in a conservation and development landscape in Gabon" was published in Conservation Biology in collaboration with Jesus Maldonado, Alfonso Alonso, Rob Fleischer and Francisco Dallmeier with the Smithsonian Institution and colleagues at the University of Groningen, the University of Oxford and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologie in Libreville, Gabon.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. S. EGGERT, R. BUIJ, M. E. LEE, P. CAMPBELL, F. DALLMEIER, R. C. FLEISCHER, A. ALONSO, J. E. MALDONADO. Using Genetic Profiles of African Forest Elephants to Infer Population Structure, Movements, and Habitat Use in a Conservation and Development Landscape in Gabon. Conservation Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12161

Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "Study of African forest elephants helps guide research efforts in US." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140107135944.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2014, January 7). Study of African forest elephants helps guide research efforts in US. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140107135944.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Study of African forest elephants helps guide research efforts in US." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140107135944.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins