Sunday, October 30, 2016

There Are More Than One Species of Giraffe?

Recently, it has been discovered that the common Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is not so common anymore.  This is because it has been discovered that there are actually 4 species of giraffe.  This discovery was made by Dr. Axel Janke and Julian Fennessey, two geneticists who took samples of DNA from about 200 different giraffes.  The results showed 4 distinct genomes, with variations so great they could be compared to that of the genomes of brown bears vs. polar bears.  The 3 newly discovered types of giraffes are no known as the Southern Giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), the Northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis), the Reticulated Giraffe (G. reticulata), and the Masai Giraffe (G. tippelskirchi).  On the outside, the only real differences between each species is the slight changes in their coat patterns, but they are all in fact different species.  It is believed that these species have diverged from a common ancestor relatively recently, about 1.5 million years ago.

With this new discovery, a new problem emerges out of the gene pool.  Since giraffes are now split up as 4 different species, it can be determined that they can not interbreed with each other.  This definitely causes more problems than it solves.  Since the giraffe population was already depleting, this new discovery takes the relatively small 90,000 giraffes left and splits it into 4 pieces.  This makes the conservation of the various giraffe species much more important than it was before, with only 4,750 of these being the northern giraffe.
Honestly, the fact that it took us this long to discover that the different coat patterns in giraffes actually represented different species is astounding.  It is almost humorous the way it was just overlooked.  But on a less humorous note, it is pretty bad that they are all not the same species, since their populations have been decreasing.  It is estimated that there are only 4,750 northern giraffes left, which is a huge difference compared to just saying there are about 90,000 giraffes left.  I think it should be made a bigger importance to keeping the different species all out of the endangered zone, as they are all slowly creeping that way.    


  1. I agree with you that it is astounding that it took till now to determine that there are four different species of giraffes. This leaves the question of how many other common animals are actually multiple species? Of course, it is challenging to do research on all the different animals across the world, but this information is also crucial to the survival and reproduction of these four different giraffe species. This research is time consuming, but important to have, based on extinction, endangerment and population statistics.

  2. I agree that it is important to conduct research on other common animals to see if any considered as a single species are actually multiple different species. This is important because, as Chris said in his article, one of the newly identified Giraffe species are endangered. As time goes by it is definitely possible that some of these species may go extinct before we are able to even realize they existed in the first place.