A makhna at the far end hopes for the opportunity to mate with the female as a tusker, significantly larger in size and guarding the female herd, looks on. Studies conclude that when two male elephants compete to mate with the same female elephant, the elephants in the musth state dominate over non-musth males. If both the elephants are in the same musth states, then it is the body size that decides the winner Photograph by: Kumar Sambhav ShrivastavaRelated story: Towards a tusk-less future
The crossed tusks appear to be a big hassle for this elephant as he has to maneuver his trunk across them. But then why do elephants have tusks at all? Darwin could not explain the evolution of exaggerated and seemingly useless ornamental traits like peacock feathers and antlers of Irish elk. He suggested such male traits may play a role in sexual selection. But this does not seem to hold true for the present population of elephants. Therefore, it’s possible that the tusk either didn’t evolve through sexual selection or that it evolved before the evolution of the musth Photograph by: Karpagam ChelliahRelated story: Towards a tusk-less future
A study by Indian researchers has predicted that the tusk will not be seen in Asian elephants in the near future. This will make elephants immune to poaching for ivory and, therefore, ensure longevity of the elephant species. About 98 per cent of the Sri Lankan elephants, for instance, are tusk-less Photograph by: Karpagam ChelliahRelated story: Towards a tusk-less future
A musth makhna (tusk-less male elephant) in Kaziranga forest. According to population estimates in various parts of the country, the ratio of makhnas to tuskers is increasing in favour of the former. In Northeast India, for instance, estimates by forest departments and scientists suggest that 60 per cent elephants in the region are tusk-less. The high numbers of makhnas have been attributed to a deliberate removal of the tusk gene from the wild populations because of rampant poaching Photograph by: Kumar Sambhav ShrivastavaRelated story: Towards a tusk-less future
A female herd entering the Sohola Beel. Refuting previous research and understanding, recent studies show that tusks in male elephants do not have the advantage of being an ornament to attract their female counterparts. Photograph by: Kumar Sambhav ShrivastavaRelated story: Towards a tusk-less future
A tusker and a makhna (tusk-less male elephant) wrestle in Kaziranga National Park in Assam. Is it the tusks that will determine the winner? Not really. Recent research indicates that musth state, when testosterone levels are high in male elephants, and the body size dictate the winning advantage in male-male competition in elephants. In the fight between tusker and a makhna, tusk plays a relatively minor role in deciding the winnerPhotograph by: Karpagam ChelliahRelated story: Towards a tusk-less future
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.