Save the elephants! Genetic research could help elephant conservation efforts


In Massachusetts, scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Harvard Medical School, Uppsala University, the University of Potsdam, and McMaster University used advanced sequencing technology to recover complete genomes from both living and extinct elephant species, the largest living terrestrial mammal.

With less than 500,000 elephants globally today and a shrinking population with only three currently recognized species, researchers were able provide a comprehensive genomic portrait of not just the living elephants but also members of extinct mammoths and straight-tusked elephants, as well as the American mastodon, an extinct distant relative of the elephant family. Scientists discovered that the gene flow between elephant species, both extinct and current species, is much more connected than previously thought.