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All-Male Groups in Asian Elephants: A Novel, Adaptive Social Strategy in Increasingly Anthropogenic Landscapes of Southern India.


ABSTRACT: Male Asian elephants are known to adopt a high-risk high-gain foraging strategy by venturing into agricultural areas and feeding on nutritious crops in order to improve their reproductive fitness. We hypothesised that the high risks to survival posed by increasingly urbanising and often unpredictable production landscapes may necessitate the emergence of behavioural strategies that allow male elephants to persist in such landscapes. Using 1445 photographic records of 248 uniquely identified male Asian elephants over a 23-month period, we show that male Asian elephants display striking emergent behaviour, particularly the formation of stable, long-term all-male groups, typically in non-forested or human-modified and highly fragmented areas. They remained solitary or associated in mixed-sex groups, however, within forested habitats. These novel, large all-male associations, may constitute a unique life history strategy for male elephants in the high-risk but resource-rich production landscapes of southern India. This may be especially true for the adolescent males, which seemed to effectively improve their body condition by increasingly exploiting anthropogenic resources when in all-male groups. This observation further supports our hypothesis that such emergent behaviours are likely to constitute an adaptive strategy for male Asian elephants that may be forced to increasingly confront anthropogenically intrusive environments.

SUBMITTER: Srinivasaiah N 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6609637 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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