SOCIALThe social lives of male and female elephants are extremely different. Female elephants usually stick together in a tight-knit matrilineal family groups. (Side note: Matrilineality is a societal system in which each person is identified with their matrilineal - their mother's lineage - and which can involve the inheritance of property and/or titles) These groups are usually 10 or more with on average of three mothers and each of their offspring. They are lead by the matriarch, or the eldest female in the group. The eldest will remain the leader of the group until she dies, or her body is unable to lead any longer.
"A study on zoo elephants showed that when the matriarch died, the levels of faecal corticosterone ('stress hormone') dramatically increased in the surviving elephants." - WWF.org
When the eldest ends her reign, her eldest daughter takes her place. This is true even if the eldest's sister is present in the group as well.
A female's life also involves interaction with other families, clans, and subpopulations. Families may associate and bond with each other, forming what are known as bond groups. These are typically made of two family groups. During the dry season, elephant families may cluster together and form another level of social organisation known as the clan. Groups within these clans do not form strong bonds, but they defend their dry-season ranges against other clans. There are typically nine groups in a clan.
Male elephants, once they reach adulthood, live a very different social life. As he starts to grow, he begins to spend more time alone or with other family groups, instead of his own. Around 14-15 years of age, male elephants only spend 20% of their time with their families and 80% away from them. The adult females of the group start to show aggression towards the male, which encourages him to permanently leave. When males do leave, they either live alone or with other males. A dominance hierarchy exists among males, whether they range socially or solitarily. Dominance depends on the age, size, and sexual condition.