Synchronization of defaecation in the African elephant (Loxodonta africana)

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Abstract

The ecological significance of defaecation in African elephants (Loxodonta africana) has been discussed from a number of points of view. Dropping counts have been used to investigate population size and movements (Wing & Buss, 1970; Laws, Parker & Johnstone, 1975); the chemical composition of dung has been examined (Dougall, 1963; Weir, 1972); and dung decomposition and its role in nutrient cycles have been described (Anderson & Coe, 1974). Defaecation in captive African elephants has been examined (Coe, 1972) and food consumption of wild elephant herds has been calculated from data on gross assimilation efficiency and dung production (Coe, 1972; Rees, 1982). This paper presents evidence of a synchronization of defaecation in elephants and discusses its possible ecological significance.

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