Sunday, November 20, 2016

Giraffes Are Actually Four Species - Not One

The giraffe has been previously considered one species. However, recent research has proven that there are actually four, rather than one, species of giraffes. Giraffes were considered to be split into sub-species before the light of this knowledge based off of their different patterns of coat and their habitat. This study consisted of tracking seven different genomic sequences that researchers chose to study genetic diversity in the mitochondrial DNA from giraffes in Namibia. The mitochondrial DNA evidence displayed that there were distinct differences in four different groups and that these four groups of giraffes had not cross-bred to exchange genetic material for over millions of years. This was enough to prove that there were four distinct species of giraffes now, and there have been for a while. These four species are the Southern Giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), the Masai Giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi), the Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata), and the Northern Giraffe (Giraffa cameopardalis). Each of these species may be adapted based off of their habitat or their diet. Conservationists believe that based of this information that these four species of giraffes need to be re-assessed for their conservation status. Previously, they were considered a single species, so this data may change the status of them as "Least Concern" to a more threatened status. The four tallest species of mammals are the four recently-discovered giraffe species.

The science in this article indicates that for over a million years these giraffes have been separated into distinct species, yet we have only now discovered this information. This is a reminder that conservation science always is learning new information and there are many strides still to be taken to protect the species of our planets. A giraffe is an animal that everyone knows of, but this proves how much we still do not know about them. This makes me question the species of giraffes we may not have known that have gone extinct to due overlooking them as separate species. These gentle giants need our recognition and to be paid attention to because of their 70% decline in population over the last fifteen years. The mitochondrial DNA that was the sample studied is the same DNA that is studied in ancestry testing in humans. It is interesting to see the vast number of information stored in our DNA and the different ways we can use that information to further our understanding of life around us. 

Works Cited
Department of Health & Human Services. "Mitochondrial DNA." Genetics Home Reference. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <>.
DNA Diagnostic Center. "What Is Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and How Is It Used?" Paternity & DNA Testing. DNA Diagnostic Center, 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <>.
Fennessy, J., and D. Brown. "Giraffa Camelopardalis (Giraffe)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. International Union of Conservation of Nature, 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <>.
Gill, Victoria. "Giraffe Genetic Secret: Four Species of Tallest Mammal Identified." BBC News Science & Environment. BBC News, 8 Sept. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <>.
Morell, Virginia. "Inside the Fight to Stop Giraffes' 'Silent Extinction'" National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 25 June 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <>.

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