Giraffes are one of the most unusual animals on Earth. They have long necks and are the tallest mammal in the world. A recent discovery about them has taken scientists by surprise. It seems that there are four distinct giraffe species roaming the African savanna, not just one like the researchers used to believe.
Scientists have recently found out about this well-kept secret of giraffes. What gave them away was their fur patterns, which is different depending on the species. Researchers initially thought that they were actually subspecies of the same species. However, the analyses on their genes revealed the mystery about the giraffe species.
Biologists’ statistics show that there are approximately one hundred thousand giraffes in the world. However, when separating them into four distinct species, scientists could easily deduce that there are few individuals for each of the four species. This means that they have to increase their efforts in order to save the giraffe populations.
Up until now, for more than a century, giraffes have been treated as belonging to nine subspecies of the same species. Researchers are both excited and amazed about this recent finding. A genetic study of the long-necked animals showed them the truth about the species.
There are northern and southern giraffes, which have their related subspecies. Researchers were able to group them into four distinct species based on their different fur color and patterns. The differences about their coats are related to the area that the giraffes live in.
The researchers also observed that the individuals belonging to the four giraffe species don’t tend to hybridize in the wild.
The genetic study initially started because scientists wanted to have more information on how to repopulate certain areas with giraffes properly. There was a turn with their study when the analyses provided them with this crucial information about giraffes being divided into four species.
The discovery of the four giraffe species is outstanding. It is very useful to environmentalists who want to help the animals extend their populations’ number. Now researchers have to take into account that the individuals from different species won’t be able to reproduce.
On the other hand, experts in animal protection explain that the conservation strategies and processes focus on species rather than other large animal groups. They hope it will be easier for them to help the animals this way.
A new study on the four giraffe species was published on September 8, in Current Biology.
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