Term of Award

Spring 2006

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Bruce A. Schulte

Committee Member 1

James B. Claiborne

Committee Member 2

Lorne M. Wolfe

Abstract

In this study of African elephants (Loxodonta africana), I examined two competing hypotheses to explain the development of social and reproductive behaviors. The reproductive hypothesis states that behaviors change around the time when an individual begins successfully reproducing, while the social dominance hypothesis states that behaviors change throughout the life of an individual, reflective of changes in social rank. These hypotheses were explored in male and female elephants during the entry to a signal-rich waterhole and in female African elephants across seasons. Chemosensory and social behaviors were recorded in Addo Elephant National Park between May 2004 and June 2005 using focal animal sampling. During the approach to a waterhole, investigation of chemical signals differed by age and sex. The social dominance hypothesis was supported by the proportion of snuffs performed to feces, while the average rate of sniffs supported the reproductive success hypothesis. Social behaviors chnaged between the younger (calf - juvenile) and older (pubescent - adult) stages for females, and most behavioral measures supported the reproductive success hypothesis. Raised sniffs and aggressive behaviors supported both hypotheses, suggesting that social dominance and reprorductive success may interact to affect the development of social and investigative behaviors for African elephants.

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