Forest elephants have been found to be more closely related to an extinct Asian elephant than to African Savannah elephants

The first analysis of the genome of the Straight-tusked elephant (a long extinct species) may well rewrite the elephant family tree – while at the current time there are 3 species of elephant (African forest, African bush and Asian Elephant) there are many more long extinct species.

It also suggests that the straight tusked elephant, long thought to be closely related to the Asian elephant, is actually an African elephant species. It does perhaps give another warning, to not classify animals by how they look but by their genes – convergent evolution can often mean species that look similar have little recent genetic links at all.

There has been much argument about whether the African forest is indeed a separate species. This debate must now be over. 2/3 of the African forest elephant has been lost in the last 15 years, we must stop arguing about its genes and get down to the work of saving this species.

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