Reader John O’Neall called my attention to a new article in The Independent about the continuing slaughter of African elephants for their ivory tusks. This is a form of artificial selection—the elephants targeted are those with the largest tusks—that has a predictable result given that artificial selection on a trait almost never fails:
An increasing number of African elephants are now born tuskless because poachers have consistently targetted animals with the best ivory over decades, fundamentally altering the gene pool.
In some areas 98 per cent of female elephants now have no tusks, researchers have said, compared to between two and six per cent born tuskless on average in the past.
. . . About 144,000 elephants were killed between 2007 and 2014, leaving the species at risk of extinction in some areas. Meanwhile those African elephant populations that do survive could become virtually tuskless, like their Asian cousins, researchers have warned.
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