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Elephants are matriarchal

Unlike gorillas, wild turkeys, and many other male-dominant species, elephants are matriarchal. The leader of each herd (the group is also sometimes known as a memory) tends to be the oldest and largest female around. She has a lot of responsibility — a herd can consist of anywhere from eight to 100elephants, and include many calves that the entire group looks after. Elephants aren’t the only matriarchal species, though. Lemurs, meerkats, spotted hyenas, orcas, and many other animals are also led by females; killer whales, in fact, stay with their mothers their entire lives.

Even so, patriarchies are far more common. Of the 76 nonhuman mammals analyzed in one study, the vast majority were led by males. Whether a species is matriarchal or patriarchal depends on a variety of factors, including physical strength, longevity, and the social bonds they form with one another. Female hyenas are stronger than their male counterparts, for instance, whereas “elephant females are born to leadership” in part because they’re better at remembering the location of water and other vital resources, according to Cynthia Moss of Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

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