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Musth in the African elephant, Loxodonta africana


The phenomenon of musth in male Asian elephants, Elephas maximus, has long been recognized1. Musth, which has been likened to rutting behaviour in ungulates2, refers to a set of physical and behavioural characteristics displayed periodically by adult male elephants. The most obvious manifestations are a sharp rise in aggressive behaviour, copious secretions from and enlargement of the temporal glands, and the continuous discharge of urine3. It has been speculated that a similar phenomenon occurs in males of the African genus, Loxodonta africana, but most workers have concluded that it does not exist4–7. Here we show that musth does occur in the African elephant and that its manifestations are similar to those in the Asian elephant.

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Poole, J., Moss, C. Musth in the African elephant, Loxodonta africana. Nature 292, 830–831 (1981).

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