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African elephant play, competence and social complexity

Lee PC & Moss CJ (2014) African elephant play, competence and social complexity, Animal Behavior and Cognition, 1 (2), pp. 144-156.

Play in African elephants (Loxodonta africana) is a life-long activity, with both males and females engaging in a variety of forms of play into their 40s and 50s. Play represents a potentially enriching social and physical activity for elephants, but also one with energetic costs and other risks. Having followed a cohort of individually recognized elephants from birth to adulthood in Amboseli, Kenya, we suggest here some long-term consequences for the role of play in the development of social and physical skills in elephants. Playful elephant calves appeared to be individuals with greater capacity to resist growth insults or stresses and had a reduced risk of dying as adults. The sexes differed in the social contexts and consequences of their early play experiences. Juvenile males used play as a mechanism to enable relaxed contacts with relative strangers, providing vital physical and behavioral information about future friends, associates and reproductive competitors. Females, by contrast, used play as one of the many mechanism for sustaining their social, protective and leadership roles within families.

Early experiences; Survival consequences; Sex differences in play; Energetics

AuthorsLee Phyllis C, Moss Cynthia J
Publication date2014
PublisherSciknow Publications
ISSN 2372-5052

Animal Behavior and Cognition: Volume 1, Issue 2

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