By: Katelyn Foley, Eileen Mello, Erica Shepherd, and Joe Varney (Stonehill College, BIO323 Evolution, Spring 2018)
When a species extends across large geographic ranges, it is often found that the individual populations of the species differ physically and genetically from one another, as these subgroups are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions within the range. Typically, populations found at the edges of the geographic range, or peripheral populations, are more likely to have adaptations or evidence of new traits as a result of their environment. One peripheral population of interest, the elephants of the Namib Desert, demonstrate unique behaviors and physical adaptations in comparison to other African savanna elephant populations. Knowing this, researchers from the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois were interested in how these elephants might differ genetically, as they show different behaviors compared to populations that are nearby.