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Why an older sister is better than an older brother for elephants

For young elephants, having an older sister is more beneficial than having an older brother, new international research suggests. Researchers at universities in Finland, the United Kingdom and Myanmar have found that in the case of Asian elephants, older siblings are influenced by their development from the beginning of life.

For an elephant cub, being raised with older siblings increases the chance of long-term survival compared to one that does not have siblings.

The study, conducted on semi-captive Asian elephants in Myanmar, also found that older sisters have a greater impact on a pup’s development than older siblings. Females of elephants raised with older sisters lived longer and reproduced for the first time on average two years earlier than those with older siblings. Reproduction at an earlier age is generally associated with several offspring throughout an elephant’s lifetime, the researchers explained.

As for male elephants raised with older sisters, they lived less, but had a higher body weight (positive aspect), than those who grew up with older siblings.

“Our research confirms that sibling relationships shape individual lives, especially in social species such as elephants, where cooperative behaviors are essential for the development, survival and reproductive potential of individuals,” said Verane Berger of Turku University. from Finland, lead author of the study, quoted by Agerpres.

The research was published in the Journal of Animal Ecology and analyzed data from 2,344 elephant chicks born between 1945 and 2018.

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