Animal coat patterns may have several functions, one of which might be to help individuals to recognize each other. In our new paper published this week in the Journal of Zoology, Phenotypic matching by spot pattern potentially mediates female giraffe social associations, we revealed that spot traits were individually variable among adult female giraffes in the Tarangire Ecosystem, and that females showed stronger associations with other females that had similar spot shapes. Our previous study found that spot shape was also similar between mother giraffes and their offspring, suggesting an effect of relatedness on both pattern similarities and female social relationships. Spot patterns of giraffes could be a visual cue for communicating and for recognizing related family members.
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