BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese elephants are evolving into an increasingly tuskless breed because poaching is changing the gene pool, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
Five to 10 percent of Asian elephants in China now had a gene that prevented the development of tusks, up from the usual 2 to 5 percent, the China Daily said, quoting research from Beijing Normal University.
"The larger tusks the male elephant has, the more likely it will be shot by poachers," said researcher Zhang Li, an associate professor of zoology. "Therefore, the ones without tusks survive, preserving the tuskless gene in the species."
Since only male elephants have tusks, there were now four female elephants for each male in China, up from the ideal ratio of two, the paper said.
Similar changes in elephant tusk development and sex ratios have been reported in Africa and India.