The Genomic History of Elephants Provides Proof of a Third African Species and has Important Implications for Conservation

Kateryna Kratzer


African elephants have historically been classified as a single species. New research into the genomic history of proboscideans has confirmed that the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) are in fact distinct species. The depauperate genetic variability of L. africana which may be due to a bottleneck in their evolutionary history increases their species vulnerability. Reclassifying these elephants as distinct species would promote unique conservation approaches for each species, which are likely necessary to prevent the further decline and potential extinction of elephant populations.  

Keywords: Proboscidean, Phylogeny, Species, Genetic bottleneck, Conservation

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