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The role of tusks, musth and body size in male-male competition among Asian elephants, Elephas maximus

Chelliah, Karpagam and Sukumar, Raman (2013) The role of tusks, musth and body size in male-male competition among Asian elephants, Elephas maximus. In: Animal Behaviour, 86 (6). pp. 1207-1214.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.09.022


The evolution of sexually dimorphic, elaborate male traits that are seemingly maladaptive may be driven by sexual selection (male-male competition and or female mate choice). Tusk possession in the Asian elephant is sexually dimorphic and exaggerated but its role in male-male competition has not yet been determined. We examined the role of the tusks in establishing dominance along with two other known male-male signals, namely, body size and musth (a temporary physiologically heightened sexual state) in an Asian elephant population in northeastern India with equal proportions of tusked and tuskless males. We observed 116 agonistic interactions with clear dominance outcomes between adult (>15 years) males during 458 field days in the dry season months of 2008-2011. A generalized linear mixed-effects model was used to predict the probability of winning as a function of body size, tusk possession and musth status relative to the opponent. A hierarchy of the three male-male signals emerged from this analysis, with musth overriding body size and body size overriding tusk possession. In this elephant population tusk possession thus plays a relatively minor role in male-male competition. An important implication of musth and body size being stronger determinants of dominance than tusk possession is that it could facilitate rapid evolution of tuskless males in the population under artificial selection against tusked individuals, which are poached for ivory. (C) 2013 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Elsevier Science.
Keywords: Elephas Maximus; Male-Male Competition; Male Secondary Character; Sexual Selection; Tuskless Male Elephant
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: Francis Jayakanth
Date Deposited: 30 Dec 2013 12:23
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2013 12:23
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/48049

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