For the most part, it can be agreed that all giraffes look the same right? They’ve all got that iconic long neck, but don’t be deceived!
According to a recent genetic study, the findings of which have been published in the journal Current Biology, which involved studying more than one-hundred skin biopsy samples, scientists just found out that there are actually four distinct different kinds of giraffe species, not only one.
It has always been thought that there was one main species, the giraffe itself, and then nine sub-species, but these new findings prove this isn’t the case.
Among the new species that have been named are the Northern Giraffe, Masai Giraffe, Southern Giraffe, and the West-African Giraffe. This could just be the tip of the iceberg, but it reveals how undiscovered new animal species can be hiding right under our noses.
These four distinct different giraffe species are reportedly different enough from one another that they don’t mate with one another in the wild, so what we have left of each species is all we’ve got.
Interestingly enough, two of the nine sub-species that we originally thought to exist, the Rothchild’s Giraffe and the Nubian Giraffe, are apparently genetically identical to one another. Say what? It turns out there was some kind of misidentification there.
The findings of the new giraffe species also bring forth some real concerns. As we didn’t know there were actually four distinct species of the animal, we now have to take into account just how many of each individual species still walk the Earth. Dwindling numbers may have an impact on which species need to be protected the most with conservation efforts.
“Now that we know that there are four giraffe species, it is even more important and urgent to support governments and other partners across Africa to protect giraffe,” said study lead author Dr. Julian Fennessy.
“We rightly worry about the fate of the African elephant, with an estimated 450,000 in the wild. By contrast, the numbers of three of the four giraffe species are rapidly declining, and two numbering <10,000 individuals in total. I think we should start working together to secure the future of giraffe in Africa and take action before it is too late.”
The genetic analysis from this study also brought forth more interesting information: what existed before the giraffe became the giraffe? According to the DNA, their most recent common ancestor would have walked the Earth around 0.4-2 million years ago before evolving into the current day giraffe.
How many other kinds of animals exist out there that we don't know about? There's no way to tell for sure, but experts are making new discoveries like this one every single day.
Source: Alpha Galileo via The Verge