During the dry season in Uganda’s Kibale Forest National Park, the majority of standing water is found in footprints left by roaming elephants. These pools turn out to be a key habitat for aquatic animals, scientists reported August 23 in the African Journal of Ecology. The team sampled 30 water-filled prints, and found 61 different species, including beetles and tadpoles. The 18 fake footprints the scientists created were quickly colonized by more than 400 animals.
A trail of footprints can also act as stepping stones for its tiny denizens, allowing them to travel. Elephant prints are diverse homes and breeding grounds, the team concluded. “If the elephants disappear those habitats would vanish,” coauthor Wolfram Remmers, of the University of Koblenz in Germany, told New Scientist.