JUL 01, 2016 06:43 PM PDT

Dwarfism found in an Elephant in Sri Lanka


Biologists in Sri Lanka have published the first documented evidence of dwarfism in an adult wild animal. A male Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) measuring just over 1.5 meters (five feet) in height was seen in an aggressive encounter with another male of average size. The elephant's small stature was due to disproportionately short legs, according to the findings published in the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group journal Gajah.
"The ‘dwarf' was by far the main aggressor in the altercation and appeared to be older than the other, a young adult," states the study. "Other than for the disproportionately short legs, morphologically and behaviorally the dwarf appeared normal."

Although this individual appears to be doing well, it is likely to be an isolated incidence of dwarfism within the population. "There is no real advantage to the trait, so there will not be positive natural selection for it," Fernando explained. "Also there may be an issue in mating. However, since elephants show a high degree of sexual dimorphism with males being much bigger [than females], he may be able to manage."

"If you think about it, most animals, especially mammals, are either predators or prey. If you are either and are born with short limbs you would be at a very big disadvantage," Prithiviraj Fernando of the Centre for Conservation and Research, and one of the authors of the paper, told mongabay.com. "A dwarf prey animal is very likely to be caught by a predator and similarly, a dwarf predator would find it very difficult to catch prey. So such individuals are very unlikely to survive in the wild. Elephants in Sri Lanka are unique (together with those in Borneo) in that they have no predators. So he was very lucky that he was born here!"

Source: Mongabay News
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 19, 2019
Watch a Baby Kangaroo Take its First Hops
When Kangaroos are first born, the bones and muscles in their legs aren’t strong enough for them to stand on their own. This is why baby kangaroos re...
OCT 19, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 19, 2019
Stealth Drones Made with Self-destructing Material Leave No Trace Behind
In the military, gliders are a much-desired method for stealth scouting. But when they become captured or accidentally crash during a mission, these device...
OCT 19, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 19, 2019
The Science Behind the Hubble Deep Field Image
The Hubble Space Telescope launched into low orbit around the Earth in 1990, and it was only a few years later that the space-based observatory captured a...
OCT 19, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 19, 2019
Ultra-dark Material Constructed with Carbon Nanotubes
The reason why we can "see" is because when light rays strike an object, a portion of them get reflected at its surface and enter into our eyes....
OCT 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 19, 2019
These Animals Give Birth to the Largest Babies in the World
Moms everywhere will tell you all about the excruciating labor pains that come along with delivering a baby, but in the animal kingdom, many newborns are s...
OCT 19, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 19, 2019
How Astronomers Determine the Universe's Age
The universe is so old and so large that the Earth is but an insignificant speck of dust by comparison. Astronomers are always trying to make sense of the...
Loading Comments...