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Building a Reference Map

Constructing a Genetic Map of Elephant Populations Across Africa

A Genetic Map from Dung DNA

Overall, scientists have collected over 2,000 dung samples from 81 distinct populations (only 70 are shown in the map) across Africa to generate a population-specific reference map of genetic profiles.

When a shipment of ivory is seized by officials, the first step is to isolate DNA from a representative portion of ivory samples to determine their genetic profiles. Scientists then look for the closest match between each ivory sample and all the elephant population profiles to map the ivory’s likely origin.

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Reference Map of Elephant Populations

Each dot on the map represents an elephant population. Scientists collected many dung samples from each population to extract DNA and determine that population’s genetic profile.