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Face to face: human recognition of Asian elephant facial features


Schiffmann, Christian; Schiffmann, Linda; Prager, Petra; Pastorini, Jennifer; Clauss, Marcus; Codron, Daryl (2024). Face to face: human recognition of Asian elephant facial features. Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

Especially in species with complex social systems, the relatedness between individuals is important information. Visual phenotypic cues present one way to identify closely related conspecifics. Humans are capable of recognizing such visual cues in the faces of their own as well as several primate species, but to which degree this applies to non-primate species is largely unexplored. Here we demonstrate the capability of 110 test persons to recognize faces of 47 male Asian elephants based on 186 photographs. The human examiners were not only able to recognize an individual based on its face after several years, but also to identify, at decreasing accuracy, full brother pairs and paternal kinship. People regularly working with elephants were more successful than laypersons. However, even laypersons recognized 73.3% of the same individuals. The identification of individual elephants by a look at their faces presents a simple approach which can be a valuable tool for in situ research.

Abstract

Especially in species with complex social systems, the relatedness between individuals is important information. Visual phenotypic cues present one way to identify closely related conspecifics. Humans are capable of recognizing such visual cues in the faces of their own as well as several primate species, but to which degree this applies to non-primate species is largely unexplored. Here we demonstrate the capability of 110 test persons to recognize faces of 47 male Asian elephants based on 186 photographs. The human examiners were not only able to recognize an individual based on its face after several years, but also to identify, at decreasing accuracy, full brother pairs and paternal kinship. People regularly working with elephants were more successful than laypersons. However, even laypersons recognized 73.3% of the same individuals. The identification of individual elephants by a look at their faces presents a simple approach which can be a valuable tool for in situ research.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Life Sciences > Animal Science and Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:11 April 2024
Deposited On:25 Apr 2024 10:32
Last Modified:26 Apr 2024 20:00
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1616-5047
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s42991-024-00415-5