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Genetic Surprise! Giraffe are four species, not one

With their long necks and distinctive patterns, giraffes are one of the most recognizable animals in the world. Traditionally, one giraffe species has been identified with several sub-species recognized. A recent study undertook an extensive genetic analysis that sampled over 190 individual giraffes from natural populations across Africa. As part of the study, coalescence-based multi-locus and population genetic analyses were performed. Researchers identified genetic mutations that could be separated into four groups as distinct species. These groups of giraffes have not cross-bred and exchanged genetic material for 1-2 million years and have evolved into four distinct species including the Northern giraffe (G. Camelopardalis); Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi); Southern giraffe (G. giraffe) and the Reticulated giraffe (G. reticuta).

For the most part, there are few visible differences between the species. However, the genetic difference between species of giraffe are so large and are comparable to those between brown bears and polar bears. This suggests that each species has adapted for a specific diet or environment. In the past 15 years, the global population of giraffes has declined by 40% with an estimated 90,000 giraffes in the wild. As a single species, the giraffe was classified as a non-threatened species. However, these new findings suggest giraffes are actually four different species highlighting the need for conservation of the world’s tallest mammal. These four newly classified species are faring differently and, moving forward, new conservation protection laws will need to be reviewed separately for each species.

Further Reading:http://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdf/S0960-9822(16)30787-4.pdf

Enzo Life Sciences is a recognized pioneer in labeling and detection, backed by innovative patents in nucleic acid labeling. Our expertise in molecular biology is demonstrated in the design of our unique PCR-based technologies. We offer traditional PCR and qPCR kits in the AMPIGENE® portfolio, while our patented AMPIPROBE™ technology is incorporated into novel qPCR assays for a price-sensitive diagnostic market. Our AMPIGENE® Taq Mixes and RT-PCR Kit are optimized for standard PCR experiments and come in a variety of flexible formats to enable easy PCR and RT-PCR. Check out our Genomics and Wildlife Endocrinology research platforms for further information.

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