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Giraffe Species Not Just One Big Group; 4 Distinct Kinds Discovered

Image: Giraffe Species Not Just One Big Group; 4 Distinct Kinds Discovered

The long-held belief that giraffes are all one species has been busted: A new study shows there are four distinct kinds. (Sharpphotos/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Friday, 09 Sep 2016 02:31 PM

A surprising analysis on the giraffe species proves giraffes are actually four species, not just one. The study, which examined giraffes in Namibia, sought to aid conservation efforts by finding similarities and differences among different populations.

What scientists found, though, was unexpected. Researchers discovered four distinct species rather than a single species of giraffe, which was the longtime commonly held belief.

“We were extremely surprised, because the morphological and coat pattern differences between giraffe are limited,” study lead researcher Dr. Axel Janke, a geneticist at Germany’s Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, said, according to The Huffington Post.

Scientists used genetic analysis from the DNA of nearly 200 giraffes. In doing so, they discovered the assumption that giraffes had cross-bred for millions of years was incorrect.

According to BBC News, Janke said his research team found that "the sub-species were genetically very different and separate."

I’d never seen that in a population study [of a species] before," he added. "Our findings indicated four distinct species."

The four species are:

• Southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffe)
• Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi)
• Reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata)
• Northern giraffe (G. Camelopardalis), which includes the Nubian giraffe (G. c. Camelopardalis), a subspecies.

“The genetic differences between giraffes is so large that we have to in fact describe four new species,” said Janke, The New York Times reported. “Some of the differences were as large or larger than the differences between brown bears and polar bears.”

Up until this point, African mammals have always been classified on the species level as "Giraffa Camelopardalis, or simply the giraffe," the Times noted. That will no longer be the case, though, as they'll now have to be placed into one of the four categories.

"All zoos across the world that have giraffes will have to change their labels," Janke said.

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A surprising analysis on the giraffe species proves giraffes are actually four species, not just one. The study, which examined giraffes in Namibia, sought to aid conservation efforts by finding similarities and differences among different populations.
giraffe, species, 4, distinct, kinds
306
2016-31-09
Friday, 09 Sep 2016 02:31 PM
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