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A drop of blood could reveal how old wild elephants are

Elephants at the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

Steve Bloom Images / Alamy

The age of African or Asian elephants can be now estimated with high accuracy by analysing patterns of chemical changes on the DNA of blood cells. The same approach works for many other animals, including beluga whales, and could help conservation efforts.

“I’m an ageing researcher, and elephants are very interesting because they have very long lives and are cancer resistant,” says Steve Horvath at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But it is very difficult to estimate their age.”

Female elephants can live up to …