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Still Waters

Elephant's long pregnancy mystery solved

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The mystery of the elephant's long pregnancy has been unravelled by scientists.

A quirk of biology allows the unborn calf to develop in the womb for almost two years, giving it the brain power it needs to survive from birth.

The research, detailed in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, will help elephant breeding programmes in zoos.

It may also lead to the development of a contraceptive to control wild populations of elephants in Africa.

Dr Imke Lueders, of the Liebniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany, told BBC News: "It is very important to study the reproduction of elephants.

"The increased knowledge that we gained through this research can help in the future with elephant breeding management because we have an idea of how the pregnancy is maintained."

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