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Echoes of the Wild: Elephants, Horses, and a Record-Breaking Cow Dominate June Headlines

Saturday 15 June 2024 - 11:40
Echoes of the Wild: Elephants, Horses, and a Record-Breaking Cow Dominate June Headlines

Elephants Remember Names in Remarkable Display of Intelligence

In a groundbreaking study published in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal, researchers have unveiled that wild African elephants possess the extraordinary ability to remember each other's names and call one another accordingly. This revelation comes after an extensive analysis of 469 elephant calls, or ‘rumbles’, conducted in Kenya.

Elephants have long been celebrated for their cognitive prowess, including tool use and mathematical abilities. However, this new study adds a fascinating layer to our understanding of their intelligence. Using Artificial Intelligence tools, researchers deciphered the low-frequency rumbles that elephants use for long-distance communication. These rumbles, unlike the more commonly known trumpeting, are difficult for the human ear to discern but are rich in harmonic structure, enabling elephants to recognize and respond to individual calls.

This discovery highlights the nuanced social interactions within elephant herds. While captive elephants in circuses or festivals often respond to names given by their trainers, this study shows that wild elephants also christen each other, adding a new dimension to our understanding of their social structure.

The implications of this study are profound, likening the elephants' naming system to human names such as "Wilson" or "Mary." Unlike dolphins and parakeets, which imitate the calls of others, elephant names are unique and individualistic. This newfound understanding could influence the treatment and conservation of these majestic creatures, emphasizing their advanced cognitive and emotional capacities.

Horses' Ancestry Traced to 4,200 Years Ago

Another herbivorous revelation this month comes from the world of horses. A study published in *Nature* on June 6 reveals that the modern horse lineage emerged 4,200 years ago. This lineage, which quickly became dominant across Eurasia, had a genetic mutation that altered the shape of its back, making it easier to ride. This discovery sheds light on the significant role horses played in transforming communication and trade networks across ancient civilizations.

The research, involving 133 researchers from 113 institutions worldwide, utilized an extensive collection of horse archaeological remains. Through radiocarbon dating and ancient DNA sequencing, the team constructed a comprehensive genome time series, offering fine-grained insights into the genetic transformations that coincided with the rise of equestrianism. This methodology holds great potential for future studies on the controlled breeding of various domestic species.

Viatina-19: The World's Most Valuable Cow

In the realm of bovines, Viatina-19 FIV Mara Movéis, or simply Viatina-19, has made headlines as the world's most valuable cow. This Brazilian champion, weighing 1,100 kilograms, was sold for an astounding $4 million at an auction, earning her a place in the Guinness World Records.

Viatina-19 epitomizes Brazil's ambitions to dominate the global beef market. Despite climate scientists' calls for reduced beef consumption to combat greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, Brazil remains the top beef exporter, with significant economic stakes. Viatina-19's owners have gone to great lengths to celebrate her grandeur, even placing billboards along highways to attract visitors.

Viatina-19's value lies not just in her size but in her genetic potential. Wealthy ranchers share her ownership, extracting her eggs and semen to create embryos that are implanted in surrogate cows. This breeding strategy aims to produce future champions, furthering Brazil's beef export ambitions. With her egg cells already exported to countries like Bolivia and prospective importers in the UAE, India, and the US, Viatina-19 is a symbol of Brazil's cattle industry prowess.

An Enlightening June for the Animal Kingdom

From the intricate social structures of elephants to the ancient lineage of horses and the record-breaking value of a Brazilian cow, June has been a month rich with animal stories. These revelations not only enhance our understanding of these remarkable creatures but also underscore the need for more humane and informed approaches to their treatment and conservation. As we continue to learn from the animal kingdom, these stories remind us of the complex and fascinating world we share with them.

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