The release of a new study today suggesting there are four species of giraffes is the latest piece of scientific evidence indicating giraffes belong to more than one species. Fennessy et al. (2016) sampled natural giraffe populations from across their range in Africa and performed genetic analyses that indicated four species should be recognized. Previous work by Brown et al. (2007) did similar analyses and suggested six species for giraffes, although there was evidence for more or fewer species within the data (see figure below). The genetic definition of species does not yet have a universal criteria, but work in coalescent species delimitation shows promise, and additional data will surely refine the species structure for giraffes and other organisms. Whatever the final number of giraffe species, the fact that giraffes as a whole are declining, with some populations numbering only in the hundreds of individuals, should ring alarm bells around the world and inspire action to conserve the world's tallest animal. There are likely more surprises hidden in the genome of giraffes, and we are also still learning about wild giraffe population biology and ecology. All these knowledge products are necessary to conserve giraffes, and Wild Nature Institute is proud of our partners and peers in the field and throughout the conservation community who are working to save the giraffes.
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