Most animals don't have grandmas. But elephants do. And what Granny does is awesome.

For those of us lucky enough to have grandmas (and grandpas!), we know they can be a blessing.

Grandparents can be sources of wisdom, comfort, or joy. Not to mention that many of us actually grew up with our grandparents — family doesn't just mean a mom and dad raising kids. We're a lot more diverse than that.

In fact, the percentage of kids living in households run by a grandparent has more than doubled from about 3% in the 1970s to about 7% now — that's more than 5 million grandkids, as of 2012, getting the care they need.


So I think it's fair to say we're really lucky to have grandparents.

You know who else is really lucky to have a grandma? This little guy.

Turns out that elephant grandmas are very important too!

Elephants often live in large families made up of babies, juveniles, and females. They're often led by the oldest of these females, which often have a really important social role in their families.

Professor Phyllis Lee wanted to know more about how these families worked. And in her research, she found something surprising — having a grandma made a huge difference in whether a new baby survived.

"It was an unexpected finding for us," said Lee. "We didn't think we'd find that very positive relationship between having a grandmother present and how well the daughters were doing in terms of reproduction."

Only a handful of animals — mostly humans and other primates, whales, and elephants — get to have grandmas.

For most animals, living and having babies are tied together; you basically only stop having babies when you die. This makes animals like elephants, which can live long after they're done reproducing, pretty rare.

Part of the reason elephants are special comes from the fact that they live so long. They can live up to 70 years! Many other animals simply don't live long enough to really see their children's children. 

But even if they do, other animals don't necessarily have any significant bond to the kid. You don't see millipede grandmas, for example. 

In fact, in many species, the mom and grandmother will end up fighting each other for resources if they're in the same area. But not in elephants. 

"Elephants are really nice and supportive," said Lee. 

(By the way, sorry Grandpa, but there aren't really any male equivalents here. Male elephants tend to go off on their own after they reach puberty. And though they can live long enough to see their children's children, they don't really have a family role. Which, when you think about it, just makes human grandpas even more special.)

It's not unusual for the entire herd to help raise a new baby, even if it's not directly related to them. Image from Brenda/Flickr.

What do elephant grandmas do for their families?

Elephant grandmas help protect the baby, keep track of it, and help it if it gets stuck. 

Grandmas are also often the boss of the family, too. They can lead the family to the right places to forage or drink or lead the way when interacting with other elephant families.

Knowing where to find water can be really important on the savanna. Image from ninara/Flickr.

Part of what made Lee's study special was the place they worked and the sheer amount of data they used.

Lee looked at data from more than 800 individual elephants in Kenya's Amboseli National Park. Researchers have been watching elephants in Amboseli for more than four decades

That's the kind of records you need when you study an animal that can live as long as a human. 

"We're only halfway there, we need another 40 years of data," said Lee. 

Her work is also interesting because it could give us hints about our own species – like why we go through menopause, for example. It was published in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Animals can have families just as complex and diverse as our own.

Next time you meet someone who grew up with their grandma, let them know that they're like an elephant. 

All of this makes me want to give a certain someone a hug.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less
via Tom Ward / Instagram

Artist Tom Ward has used his incredible illustration techniques to give us some new perspective on modern life through popular Disney characters. "Disney characters are so iconic that I thought transporting them to our modern world could help us see it through new eyes," he told The Metro.

Tom says he wanted to bring to life "the times we live in and communicate topical issues in a relatable way."

In Ward's "Alt Disney" series, Prince Charming and Pinocchio have fallen victim to smart phone addiction. Ariel is living in a polluted ocean, and Simba and Baloo have been abused by humans.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

With many schools going virtual, many daycare facilities being closed or limited, and millions of parents working from home during the pandemic, the balance working moms have always struggled to achieve has become even more challenging in 2020. Though there are more women in the workforce than ever, women still take on the lion's share of household and childcare duties. Moms also tend to bear the mental load of keeping track of all the little details that keep family life running smoothly, from noticing when kids are outgrowing their clothing to keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments to organizing kids' extracurricular activities.

It's a lot. And it's a lot more now that we're also dealing with the daily existential dread of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, and increasingly intense natural disasters.

That's why scientist Gretchen Goldman's refreshingly honest photo showing where and how she conducted a CNN interview is resonating with so many.

Keep Reading Show less

Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.

Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.

Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:

"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."

Keep Reading Show less