Term of Award
Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)
Document Type and Release Option
Thesis (open access)
Department of Biology
Bruce A. Schulte
Committee Member 1
J. Michelle Cawthorn
Committee Member 2
James B. Claiborne
Female African elephants exhibit multiple levels of social organization with the family as the functional social unit. Families consist of related females and the oldest female is the matriarch. Related family groups that frequently fuse are termed kinship groups, led by the grand matriarch. I examined matriarch communication behavior across social context and their role in interactions between families at waterholes in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa. I analyzed three hypotheses for matriarchal effects on group fitness: a) older matriarchs provide greater access to resources, b) older matriarchs lead more social groups, or c) there is no behavior-fitness relationship and differences in behavior represent behavioral signatures. Matriarch presence in an approaching family significantly increased the likelihood that agonistic interactions or pass away behavior occurred, rather than the most submissive turn back behavior. When more than one kinship group was present, 18 of 24 matriarchs performed chemosensory behaviors compared to 8 of 24 when only their kinship group was present. As the measure of fitness, the kinship calf-to-female ratio increased with grand matriarch age, and was weakly affected by waterhole use but not sociality. Kinship level behavioral signatures also were evident. Matriarchs influenced group interactions and fitness, and their chemosensory behavior increased in more complex social contexts.
Esposito, Rhea Marie, "Effect of Matriarchs on Group Interactions, Kinship Fitness, and Differences In Chemosensory Behavior of African Elephants (Loxodonta Africana)" (2008). Electronic Theses & Dissertations. 716.