We’ve all heard about the increasing role of grandparents in raising children. According to the AARP, in the years from 2000 to 2010, the number of American children living in grandparent-headed households jumped from 1.5 million to 1.9 million. But it turns out that this is not a uniquely human phenomenon. You know who else needs their grannies? Baby elephants.
A new study has shown that for Asian elephants, grandmothers are the key to babies’ survival. Most animals keep reproducing until death, though some species, such as orca whales, elephants, and humans, continue to live for decades after no longer giving birth. Because evolution is centered on reproduction, this has been somewhat puzzling for scientists: what’s the use in living to old age if you’re no longer producing offspring?
To help answer this question, a team of Finnish researchers observed Asian elephants in Myanmar. What they found was astonishing: if a grandmother lived in the same area as her grand-calf, that calf had eight times lower risk of death. The calf’s mother, likewise, produced more offspring, ostensibly because she had less work when it came to raising her own calves and so was free to bear more. They also found that the more calves the grandmother had given birth to, the bigger the effect she had on her grand-calves, showing that more experience in motherhood made her a better grandmother.
This study isn’t just heartwarming; it has real lessons for conservation, too. Nearly half of baby elephants kept in zoos die in their first years, and elephant reproduction in captivity is also a challenge. This study suggests that zoos would benefit from keeping grandmothers around. “Virpi Lummaa, an author of the study, said in a press release.
“Conservationists and captive population managers could potentially boost the elephant population by simply starting to keep the grandmothers with their offspring, similarly as would be the case in the wild in elephant families.”Advertisement
When a mother elephant can’t free her baby from the mud, grandma steps in.
Explore the familiar dynamics of elephant family units.
Grandmas aren’t the only ones that help out Mom.
– DNews, curiosity.com
Here’s one of the best bits of parenting advice you’ll ever find: “a confident child is more likely to be a success in life, more likely to be liked in life, and more likely to be happy in life”. Isn’t that what you want? Here are 7 parenting tips to build up confidence in your...
Have you ever seen a baby so cute you just want to eat it up? We probably don’t have to tell you that this is not a sign you’re a cannibal. It’s just an example of dimorphous expression: the way that intense positive emotions can come out in ways that would otherwise be considered negative....