Scientists discover that the giraffe is actually four species

Each species is as different from the other as the grizzly bear is from the polar bear.

Harry Marcolis | Oct 12, 2016

The Giraffe is the tallest mammal on the planet. It has long legs and an even longer neck, giving it a graceful yet clumsy appearance. However, scientists seem to understand little about this mammal. For a long time, they thought that it was just one species with many subspecies.

But now they are discovering that there are four distinct species. Each species is as different from the other as the grizzly bear is from the polar bear. Suffice their similar coats the species DNA makeup is completely different.

Axel Janke, a geneticist, says that their research showed that the species have not been in contact for almost a million years, and therefore they took different genetic paths to suit the habitat band available food.

He described the four species as the southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi), reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata) northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis). "I'd never seen that in a population study of a species before," he said. "It turns out; the whole clade of northern giraffes was very different from reticulated giraffes. Our findings indicated four distinct species."

The finding would require that the conservation approach on giraffes be re-evaluated. The overall population of the animal has dropped by 40 percent over the past half a decade. The scientist acknowledges that they will need no to get into detail and actually see the exact number of each species.

"This is a significant finding that will enable conservation biologists to target their efforts and, perhaps, to come up with new conservation approaches in captivity or the wild, based on the genetic similarities and differences between these groups," Dr. Axel Janke said.

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