Sat, Apr 29, 2017 | updated 04:58 PM IST

There're 4 species of giraffe, not just 1: Study

Updated: Sep 10, 2016 09:04 IST      
There're 4 species of giraffe, not just 1: Study

Washington D.C. [USA], Sept. 10 (ANI): A recent study has found out that giraffes actually are not one species, but four.

For comparison, the genetic differences among giraffe species are at least as great as those between polar and brown bears.

The unexpected findings highlight the urgent need for further study of the four genetically isolated species and for greater conservation efforts for the world's tallest mammal, the researchers said.

"We were extremely surprised, because the morphological and coat pattern differences between giraffe are limited," said researcher Axel Janke.

Giraffes are also assumed to have similar ecological requirements across their range, he added, "but no one really knows, because this megafauna has been largely overlooked by science."

Giraffes are in dramatic decline across their range in Africa. Their numbers have dropped substantially over the last three decades, from more than 1,50,000 individuals to fewer than 1,00,000.

Despite that, the researchers said that there has been relatively little research done on giraffes in comparison to other large animals, such as elephants, rhinoceroses, gorillas, and lions.

About five years ago, Julian Fennessy of Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Namibia approached Janke to ask for help with genetic testing of the giraffe. Fennessy wanted to know how similar (or not) giraffes living in different parts of Africa were to each other, whether past translocations of giraffe individuals had inadvertently "mixed" different species or subspecies, and, if so, what should be done in future translocations of giraffes into parks or other protected areas.

In the new study, Janke and his research group examined the DNA evidence taken from skin biopsies of 190 giraffes collected by Fennessy and team all across Africa, including regions of civil unrest. The extensive sampling includes populations from all nine previously recognized giraffe subspecies.

The genetic analysis shows that there are four highly distinct groups of giraffe, which apparently do not mate with each other in the wild.

As a result, they say, giraffes should be recognized as four distinct species. Those four species include (1) southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), (2) Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi), (3) reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata), and (4) northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis), which includes the Nubian giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis) as a distinct subspecies.

The elusive Nubian giraffe from Ethiopia and the South Sudan region was the first described some 300 years ago, Fennessy says, and is now shown to be part of the northern giraffe.

The discovery has significant conservation implications, the researchers say, noting that the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Species Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group recently submitted an updated proposed assessment of the giraffe on the IUCN Red List taking into consideration their rapid decline over the last 30 years.

"With now four distinct species, the conservation status of each of these can be better defined and in turn added to the IUCN Red List," Fennessy said.

"As an example," he added, "northern giraffe number less than 4,750 individuals in the wild, and reticulated giraffe number less than 8,700 individuals--as distinct species, it makes them some of the most endangered large mammals in the world."

Janke and Fennessy said that they are now analyzing the amount of gene flow between the giraffe species in greater detail. In addition to expanding the ecological and species distribution data, they want to better understand the factors that limit gene flow and the giraffes' differentiation into four species and several subspecies.

The study has been published in Current Biology. (ANI)

NASA eyes intensifying tropical cyclone 'Frances'

Updated: Apr 29, 2017 11:07 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], April 29 (ANI): Two NASA satellites have provided forecasters in Australia with visible and rainfall data as tropical cyclone 'Frances' strengthened in the western Timor Sea.

Full Story >>

Oceans at risk due to rising levels of carbon dioxide

Updated: Apr 28, 2017 12:27 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 28 (ANI): As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases and the acidity of water changes, it might lead to change in crucial marine process.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 27 (ANI): Animal rights activists have been debating about the use of animals in biomedical research since long but scientists suggest improvements to animal testing protocols could boost credibility and usefulness.

Full Story >>

London [UK], Apr 26 (ANI): As NASA's Cassini Spacecraft enters its final dive, called 'The Grand Finale', into orbiting Saturn's moon, Titan, Google commemorates the occasion by making a special Doodle.

Full Story >>

India's outsized coal plans put Paris climate goals at risk

Updated: Apr 26, 2017 08:34 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 26 (ANI): India will not be able to meet its Paris climate agreement commitments in the coming years if it carries through with plans to construct nearly 370 coal-fired power plants, according to University of California, Irvine and CoalSwarm researchers.

Full Story >>

NASA looks at newly formed Tropical Depression 3W in 3-D

Updated: Apr 26, 2017 07:21 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 26 (ANI): Tropical Depression 03W formed in the Pacific Ocean west of Guam on April 24, 2017, and data from the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission or GPM core satellite was used to look at the storm in 3-D.

Full Story >>

Researchers relate extreme weather to global warming

Updated: Apr 25, 2017 11:19 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 25 (ANI): In the past, scientists typically avoided linking individual weather events to climate change, citing the challenges of teasing apart human influence from the natural variability of the weather. But that is changing.

Full Story >>

Ahmedabad surgeon performs India's 1st robotic surgery

Updated: Apr 24, 2017 18:43 IST     

Ahmedabad (Guajarat) [India], Apr 24 (ANI): A unique robotic surgical procedure, said to be the first of its kind performed in India and third in the world, was recently performed by a doctor at Sterling Hospitals on a 37-year old patient to relieve him of acute pain caused by a rare condition of Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome.

Full Story >>

This 3-D skin printer can heal severe burns faster

Updated: Apr 23, 2017 07:11 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 23 (ANI): A newly-developed method for using a modified printer that covers wounds with healthy skin cells can make the traditional burn treatment a history.

Full Story >>

Turns out, you can 'point out' a man's education

Updated: Apr 21, 2017 14:51 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 21 (ANI): Knowing a man's education is as simple as looking at his fingers, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Just when you thought brain games made you smarter

Updated: Apr 21, 2017 14:39 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 21 (ANI): You may want to be skeptical of ads declaring you can rev up your brain's performance by challenging it with products from the growing brain-training industry, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Accomplished female scientists often overlooked

Updated: Apr 21, 2017 14:17 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 21 (ANI): Turns out, gender gap still exists in the STEM fields-science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Full Story >>

Port Blair [India], April 21 (ANI): In a first of its kind study, peptides, from the venom of cone snails, have been identified that opens up possibilities of drug research for several human ailments.

Full Story >>

Antarctica's biodiversity 'falling between the cracks'

Updated: Apr 20, 2017 22:49 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 20 (ANI): The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been debunked.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], April 18 (ANI): Keep your worries at bay as Azithromycin group of medicine is no more linked to an increased risk of irregular heartbeat, says a study.

Full Story >>

Even with head-up display, texting while driving not safe

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 12:38 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Despite relatively less distraction from the head-up displays, a recent study has suggested that texting while driving is still a bad idea.

Full Story >>

Now, sketch your way to better learning

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 11:31 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Sketching exercises can help students learn many subjects, but they are woefully underused in classrooms, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Randomness peaks when you're 25

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 10:18 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): 25 is the "golden age," when people's ability to make random choices or mimic a random process, such as coming up with hypothetical results for a series of coin flips, peaks, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Why having a 'nice' boss may be 'bad' for you

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 10:02 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Those feeling stressed at work may want to rethink before blaming their bosses as it turns out, an unsupportive manager can actually be good for you.

Full Story >>

Are you all ears? Your eyes indicate if you are

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 09:06 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Turns out, the eyes really are a window to the soul as a recent study has found that your pupils give away whether or not you are listening.

Full Story >>