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A Quadruple take on African Giraffes!

Team StoryWeavers|June 08, 2022, 08:47 IST| 41

This is not a tall story, but actual, interesting news!

You have heard about giraffes and how they are the happy residents of South Africa. They are the tallest living terrestrial animals with extremely long necks and long legs. They have long tongues too (around 20 inches on average) that help them pull and chew leaves all day, every day!

If you think that’s all about giraffes and their species, hold on! Scientists recently found four new distant giraffe species roaming the continent. If you think these giraffes are part of some list of interesting hybrid animals, you are wrong! They are unique species!

Until now, the consensus has been that there is just one giraffe species in the world with nine subspecies. But in 2016, the collaborative research of Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre suggested otherwise by hinting at four possible other species of giraffe. 

What makes a species?

What makes a species?

A species is basically a population or a group of populations with similar characteristics where they can interbreed to produce fertile offspring. In 1735, Carl Linnaeus introduced the modern taxonomy to group species into a genus, families and so on. This helped plants and animals get their scientific recognition. Taxonomy also kept things pretty straightforward – different species are simply different animals.

But little did Linnaeus know what was going to happen 100 years later. Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution and with that identifying species under geographical variation became challenging. Species with very different traits got further divided into subgroups. They were considered subspecies of that species. It is through this method scientists also divided the African giraffes into various species and subspecies.

Which are these new giraffe species?

In the new study, the research team examined the genomic evidence taken from over 1000 giraffes (including the previously recognised subspecies) to distinguish these four species. They have classified these new long-necked herbivore species as:

  • Masai giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi)
  • Northern giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
  • Reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata)
  • Southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa)
Efforts to map the genome of the African giraffe helped scientist discover four new species of giraffe that have been roaming in the continent | Source: Daily Mail

Efforts to map the genome of the African giraffe helped scientists discover four new species of giraffe that have been roaming in the continent | Source: Daily Mail

Furthermore, the team also identified two to three distinguished subspecies of southern and northern giraffes.

With giraffes looking so similar, surely you might be wondering how the research team identified these four distinct species. 

Cracking the code!

A few years ago, the Namibian-based Giraffe Conservation Foundation approached Dr Axel Janke about developing ways to distinguish subspecies of giraffes. The foundation wanted to understand how the animals might be affected if different subspecies were mixed together when they were moved into protected areas. Dr Janke, who is a geneticist at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Goethe University in Germany, started off his research right from the genetic code!  He examined the mitochondrial DNA of these giraffes that live throughout sub-Saharan Africa and look like siblings.

You all know how DNA carries all the information about how a living thing will look and function. It is the basic building block of our genes and is passed on from our parents.

But mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother and not both parents, which is the case with nuclear DNA. On studying the nuclear DNA, the findings from his research baffled him! “We looked at multiple nuclear genes and found that there are not only one, but at least four genetically highly distinct groups of giraffes,” confirmed Dr Axel Janke. “We were extremely surprised because the morphological and coat pattern differences between giraffes are limited. However, to put our results into perspective, the genetic differences between the distinct giraffe species are similar to those between polar and brown bears.” 

Read More:

How could such a tall creature be hidden in plain sight?

giraffe in South Africa

Part of this is because scientifically, “giraffes have been a neglected species despite their size,” states Dr Janke. A global focus on endangered and heavy poaching of elephants, lions, and other animals has also contributed to the giraffe’s obscurity. “We estimate that less than 6,000 northern giraffes are remaining in the wild. Their numbers have declined by more than 90% in the last 35 years. As a species, they are one of the most threatened large mammals in the world,” adds Dr Janke.

A miraculous thing!

“It is a miraculous thing,” says Dr Julian Fennessy, director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. “The finding of these new species and their genome analysis has great significance for giraffe conservation.”

Hopefully, this new study will put a spotlight on their conservation and save this icon of Africa.

What do you think about this interesting finding about African giraffes? Tell us in the comments below. In terms of biodiversity even India ranks high on the list. Did you know that the biodiversity of Western Ghats is so high that it is considered one among 36 biodiverse hotspots in the world.

Just like the giraffes there is yet another animal that could capture anyone’s attention due to it’s uniqueness and that is the camel. Check out some of these interesting facts about camels.

About the Author

Books are Tanaya Goswami’s first love and cheesecakes come a close second. Talking about movies, music, calligraphy, politics, and Elon Musk will get you listed under the friends’ section of her diary. Ever since moving on from her job as an English lecturer, she spends her time at BYJU’S crafting stories filled with emotion and sprinkled with sarcasm. Outside of work, she’s either learning something new (French, most recently!) or is curled up with a book and a cup of coffee. She firmly believes that discovering what you don’t know is the key to knowledge and is constantly working towards improving herself. Drop in a line at if you liked her stories, have something nice to say, or if you have compelling ideas to share!

Leave a Comment



Chitralekha Killi

September 8, 2021


Aaditya Pokharna

September 2, 2021

It is very amazing and intresting.

Harsh raj

August 21, 2021

Amazing news
Interesting stories
Thank ?you

Mehnaz Parveen

August 20, 2021

I eagerly wait to read these type of interesting facts …

Alina Khan

August 14, 2021

Thankyou byjus for sending me this information.It was amazing.

Twisha Patel

August 1, 2021

This information was amazing…please notified me everytime when you apload new

Shreya Sharma

August 1, 2021

It is very interesting
Good information
I love it
Thank you


July 26, 2021

Amazing information


July 23, 2021

It is Amazing and interesting it help me learn new things

Anushka yadav

July 22, 2021

Amazing and intrested news wow ❤️❤️❤️

Yash patel

July 20, 2021

It’s amazing to see different types of giraffe and their stories????


July 19, 2021

I like it a lot

V R Saiprabu

July 17, 2021

This was an Amazing news about African giraffes

Lalitha dixitha

July 17, 2021

It’s a very excellent topic to learn from
LKG we are learning but this much is there behind giraffes .
I think this is a excellent topic and useful information about giraffe ? thank you byjus


July 17, 2021


Interesting finding is heights and species of ? giraffe..

#proud to be byjuite…
Thanks Byjus

Dipshika Burnase

July 16, 2021

Something interesting information i got it.


July 16, 2021



July 16, 2021

Byju’s study is nice

Tanmaya Nayak

July 16, 2021

This help full for students because we know extra knowledge about geography or wildlife and know about the new things. Thank you byju’s. ???????


July 16, 2021

Thank you so much to the @byjus_team providing us these interesting facts.


July 16, 2021

I learnt something interesting and new. Thankyou


July 16, 2021

I learn something interesting and new

K. Bharath Krishna

July 15, 2021

Thanks byjus for telling interesting facts of giraffe

Gayatri Vilas sidam

July 15, 2021

I love giraffes and this scientific research and the detail of scientists are all so good and helpful

Bikramdeep kaur

July 15, 2021

It was so amazing to learn about some thing new


July 15, 2021

It’s amazing


July 15, 2021

Amazing information ?

Nazish siddiqui

July 15, 2021

This is amazing. thankyou for this information


July 15, 2021

Amazing and interesting

Suvechha Roy

July 15, 2021

Interesting And Knowledgeable! Fun facts for all to know about!


July 15, 2021



July 15, 2021



July 15, 2021

Pretty interesting! I wonder the height of the giraffe could be greater than a building. ???


July 15, 2021



July 15, 2021

Wow, for telling me interesting facts about GIRAFFES thankyou.

Ujjwal raj tiwari

July 14, 2021

I know this but I got a proper type of revision


July 14, 2021

it was great, I learnt about different types of giraffe.

Atharva Pandey

July 14, 2021

Please notify me every time when a new contest come .
Thank you.

Aarav verma

July 14, 2021

It’s a amazing to see different types of giraffe and their stories.

Devashish Mishra

July 14, 2021

This is an amazing news


July 14, 2021

Amazing and interesting


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