Africa (Web Desk): The Giraffe Conservation Foundation asked scientists to carry out a genetic analysis of giraffes in Namibia, southwest Africa, merely to understand how similar, or not, different populations were to each other, and how that could help in conservation efforts.
But the scientists uncovered something unexpected.
Following a comprehensive genetic analysis using the DNA from 190 giraffes, Janke and his team discovered that the four species of giraffe had been separated for 1 to 2 million years, “with no evidence of genes being exchanged between them.”
The four giraffe species are: the southern giraffe (Giraffagiraffa), the Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi), the reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata) and the northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis).
Genetic differences among the four species are comparable to those between polar bears and brown bears.
According to the foundation, however, giraffe populations have declined by over 60 percent in the past three decades. There are now fewer than 100,000 giraffe in the wild.
Researchers said they hope the new study will propel giraffe conservation efforts, and will also equip conservationists to better protect the four giraffe species.