Mystery of the Missing Tusks
This activity explores images of elephants with and without tusks, which serve as phenomena for learning about selection and human impacts on the frequency of traits within populations.
This absence of tusks, which is called tusklessness, is a natural, but usually rare, trait in African elephants. Scientists are studying how rates of tusklessness in elephant populations have changed, and are continuing to change, due to poaching. These images from Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique show two different African elephants: an elephant that has tusks and an elephant that does not.
The “Educator Materials” document includes background information and implementation suggestions for using the images as phenomena. The “Student Handout” includes the images and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Examine images of phenomena, make observations, and ask questions.
- Collaborate with peers on ideas, ask questions that require higher levels of reasoning, and develop deeper understanding of concepts.
- Explain how human impacts can increase the frequency of certain traits in a population.
adaptation, elephant, Gorongosa, poaching, population, selective pressure, tusklessness, unnatural selection, variation
The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. No rights are granted to use HHMI’s or BioInteractive’s names or logos independent from this Resource or in any derivative works.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS4-2, HS-LS4-3; SEP1
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.E, EVO-1.G, SYI-2.B, SYI-3.D; SP3
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 2.1, 2.6
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.A, SP2
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)