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Don't trust any elephant under 60

Older matriarchs better judges of danger

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8:56pm, March 15, 2011

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Not to cause dinner table shouting or new excesses of political punditry — but in a test of a particular leadership skill among elephants, age and experience really did trump youth and beauty.

Elephant matriarchs 60 years of age or older tended to assess threats in a simulated crisis more accurately than younger matriarchs did, says Karen McComb of the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. When researchers played recordings of various lion roars, elephant groups with older matriarchs grew especially defensive at the sound of male cats. Younger matriarchs’ families underreacted,

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