The researchers described that there are four species of giraffes. You always knew that – ČT24 – Czech Television

This highest living animal split into four different species relatively recently, probably only a few thousand years ago. However, conservationists now classify the giraffe as only one species (with nine subspecies) that they lead to endangered.

study published in the journal Current Biology but it confirms that there are fundamental differences between giraffes. Giraffes living in the wild seem to have known this for a long time – experts did not observe that there was mating between species. The study of giraffe genes living in different parts of Africa is the most convincing evidence to date of the need to reclassify these large mammals.

Axel Janke, a geneticist at the Senckenberg Center for Biodiversity and Climate Research in Germany and Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, says the international team was surprised to find major genetic differences, given that giraffe populations look so similar – except for differences in drawing on their fur.

“To put the results in perspective, the genetic differences between different species of giraffes are similar to those between polar and brown bears,” says Janke.

Change to protect giraffes

The giraffe is listed as vulnerable on the International Conservation Union’s (IUCN) list of endangered species. However, if each of the four species had its own assessment, three of them would be in the endangered or critically endangered categories. The category of endangered species then follows on a seven-point scale.

The decline in the number of giraffes in Africa over the last three decades from the former 150,000 to today’s 100,000 has been due, among other things, to the loss of the natural environment due to agriculture, climate change, poaching and conflict. Animal rights activists warn of their “silent extinction.”

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Researchers have identified four species: northern, southern, Maasai and reticulated giraffes. The worst off is the northern giraffe, which is estimated to have declined by 90 percent over the past 35 years.

The team, which included experts from the US Smithsonian’s Institute for the Conservation of Species (SCBI), the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the St. Petersburg Research University of Information Technology, Mechanics and Optics (ITMO), examined genomic evidence from skin samples of about a thousand giraffes in the last two years. collected by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) for decades. The extensive material contains samples from populations of all nine subspecies, including those living in isolated places or in areas of unrest.

The researchers hope that the new research will help the IUCN to reconsider the classification of giraffes and introduce a new one, as was the case recently with elephants living in Africa. These are now listed as two different species.

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