How many types of giraffes are there? Science discovers four subspecies
Visually, they can hardly be distinguishedBut new genomic analyzes show that there are Four different species of giraffes and seven subspecies.
This result was achieved by an international team led by Professor Axel Yankee from The LOEWE Center for Translational Genomics of Biodiversity. Based on their comprehensive genome analyzes, The four giraffe subspecies evolved separately over thousands of years. Relationships within the giraffe genus have already been discussed. For a long time, it was assumed that there was one species, then four, then three types. Published study Current biology It provides new knowledge on the evolution of giraffes and related information for proper conservation in Africa.
In a statement, Professor Janki explains: “Genomics, which is the study of all the genetic information of an organism, opens up new possibilities and can broaden our perspective on species and their evolution, as has now happened in the case of giraffes. ” One species should be the long-necked African mammal, the giraffe, which has long been generally accepted. However, preliminary genetic studies from 2016 from Janke’s lab indicated that there is not one, but rather four different species of giraffes. This revolutionary result, obtained jointly with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), is the subject of a controversial debate between researchers and environmentalists. Now genome analyzes support the four species model.
Analysis of nearly 200,000 sites in the DNA of a total of 50 giraffes confirms four species, namely the northern giraffe, southern giraffe, reticulated giraffe and Maasai giraffe. It includes a total of seven subspecies. Data also shows that the four giraffe subspecies began to develop separately from each other between 230,000 and 370,000 years ago. There is very little gene flow and mixing between them. This means that the different species do not usually mate in the wild.. However, in captivity this is possible under certain conditions.
“The results of the genome analysis are of great importance for the preservation of giraffes,” says Dr Julian Vinacy, director of GCF and co-author of the study. The population has declined dramatically over the past century to around 117,000 wild giraffes. Vincci: “It is now clear that the remaining giraffes belong to four different species. This further aggravates the situation. For example, We estimate that there are less than 6,000 Nordic giraffes left in the wild. As a species, it is one of the most endangered large mammals in the world. ”
Giraffes are found in the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, from Niger to Kenya and Namibia to southern Africa. These herbivores reach a height of six meters and are the largest land mammals in the world. Their livelihoods are deteriorating in many places due to the increasing demand for farmland. Illegal fishing and difficult political conditions complicate their protection. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies giraffes as “endangered” on its Red List of Threatened Species. The model of the four species has not yet been taken into account, which could change now.
“The data available is more informative than ever”, According to Raphael Coimbra, researcher at SBiK-F (Senckenberg Institute for Biodiversity and Climate Research) and author of the study. “Our genome analyzes are based on much more genetic data than previous studies.”
In their analyzes, the researchers compared the giraffe genomes of all previously considered species and subspecies in a total of 12 African countries and zoos. Hence the genome of the Kordofan giraffe, an endangered subspecies of the northern giraffe, It was fully serialized for the first time.