Elephant calves born to stressed mothers age faster and have fewer offspring later in life
Elephants are known for having extremely sensitive bodies, but research has shown that stress experienced during a person’s early years can have a life-long impact on an animal.
According to a new study, infant elephants born under stressful settings may continue to suffer decades later, aging quickly, and having fewer offspring.
Scientists looked examined records for more than 10,000 Asiatic elephants spanning centuries and generations.
The baby Assamese elephants (pictured) are born during the monsoon season, and their siblings tend to be put to work in Myanmar’s timber industry, where they produce fewer offspring than they did.
They discovered that certain animals had high levels of stress and high rates of reproduction at an early age, but produced significantly fewer offspring later in their lives.
Elephant populations also declined rapidly as they aged later in life.
A professor of biology at the University of San Francisco who is dedicated to research, Dr. Hannah Mby, stated: “Early life conditions have been linked to a variety of human diseases, but it is also unknown that stress in early life accelerates aging rates in long-lived species.”
We discovered that the decline in reproduction with age is much deeper in elephants born at a poorer time of year.
When a species reproduces slowly and while it is still young, it is still not expected for the species to end up with fewer offspring.
In a study that was published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers looked at the effects of localized conflict levels on elephants in Myanmar.
Semi-captivate animals are known by the nation’s meat industry to drag and push limbs.
Dr. Mumby and his colleagues used measurements of a stress-related hormone, glucocorticoid, to determine which months were the most difficult for the elephants.
It is generally accepted that the months from January to August—which are monsoon season and normally see elephants working hard to drag logs to drivers—were the most difficult for the animals.
Researchers measured the stress levels of female elephants and discovered that the months of January, February, and August – the monsoon season – were the most stressful for animals. Born during this season, calves (shown) tended to have a lower chance of surviving, and that quickly progressed.
The number of calves born at this time is small, and their chances of survival are the worst.
People who didn’t survive tended to age more quickly than people who were born at other times of the year.
Females born during these months also lose the ability to reproduce at an earlier age in adulthood, which means they give birth to significantly fewer calves than elephants born during other times of the year.
Human standards have generally stated that stress in others can affect their offspring.
It is expected to happen through a process known as epigeneticism, in which female reproductive organs are turned on and off in an effort to adapt a baby to the environment it will be born into.
Research on elephants (pictured) may have implications for other long-lived species, such as humans.
The most recent research shows how stress exposure during whole development can affect other long-lived brain regions.
It may also have significant effects on African elephant populations in western zoos, as these animals may experience stressful circumstances related to captivity.
Researchers said that decreasing seasonal exposure to stress in rural areas where people are free to live in the wild could also help to increase the number of elephant populations.
The senior author of the study, Dr. Vrp Lmmaa, stated: “Fertility and reproductive rates decline with age for all of us, but for some faster than others, and this variation was how we measured differences in aging.”