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Cryptic species as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary are one of two or more morphologically indistinguishable biological groups that are incapable of interbreeding. By failing to distinguish these species as separate issues can arise when conducting biodiversity assessment and formulating wildlife management plans (McKenna, 2007).

African elephants are an example of a cryptic species. In 2001 a study revealed that there are two non-interbreeding, genetically distinct species: the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant. Bush elephants are larger and have outward curving tusks compared to forest elephants. Forest elephants have straight downward pointed tucks and are darker in color (World Wildlife Federation, n.d.).

World Wildlife Federation. (n.d.) Retrieved form http://worldwildlife.org/species/african-elephant

McKenna, P. (2007). Hidden species may be surprisingly common. Retrieved from http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12293-hidden-species-may-be-surprisingly-common.html#.Um_57Wc4TLk



Cryptic species and the confusion that comes with it is a common occurrence in the field of birding .  It was common practice to lump many different species into one in the 70's & 80's (Jaramillo, 2006).  But careful observations have shown that the specific vocalizations birds require for mating creates cryptic species.  An example of this are the Eastern & Western Meadowlarks


Jaramillo, A. (2006). Tales from the cryptic species. Birding, 30-38.