Term of Award

Fall 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

none

Committee Member 2

none

Abstract

Author's abstract: African elephants are a polygynous species in which males and females carry out dimorphic lifestyles. Males search and compete for reproductively active females, while females care for offspring and facilitate group cohesion. The objectives of this study was a) to compare the development of sexually dimorphic behaviors and developmental trends between young male and female wild African elephants and b) to determine the ability of captive female African elephants to discern between the follicular and luteal phase of conspecifics through trunk-tip contacts and the investigation of urine, and whether the reproductive phase of the receiver affected the response to urine. For the first objective, focal animal observations were made on 83 female and 81 male elephants less than 11 years of age from June-October 2005 in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa. For the second objective, 11 estrous and 10 non-estrous females were observed at nine zoos throughout North America from March-August, 2006. Sexually dimorphic behaviors and developmental patterns conducive to future adult lifestyles became apparent during social play, social interactions, and exploratory chemosensory behaviors of young male and female elephants. Captive elephants were able to discern estrous condition through direct contact to the urogenital region, increasing in rate with approaching ovulation, however, they did not distinguish between luteal and follicular urine from unfamiliar females.

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