Posted by That Other Mike on 24/12/2007
Or Giraffes, as they’re currently known. I’ve always much preferred the term “camelopard” for some reason. Perhaps because it gives such a fascinating insight into the pre-Darwin mindset: It has a long neck like a camel, but is sort of spotted like a leopard. It must be some kind of cross-breed between them! Now, on to the griffins!
Anyway. An interesting item in evolutionary-esque/evironmental news: Not one but ‘six giraffe species.
The world’s tallest animal, the giraffe, may actually be several species, a study has found.
A report in BMC Biology uses genetic evidence to show that there may be at least six species of giraffe in Africa.
This represents a fascinating new discovery in evolutionary biology and the study of kinship/courtship behaviour.
As the article says, the populations tend to encounter each other relatively frequently, so some other kind of selection vector besides simple allopatrism must be taking place.
Giraffes of different types in zoos will interbreed, yet the research referenced in the article shows that the reticulated giraffe (fantastic name; it literally means net-like giraffe and refers to the characteristic skin markings) and Maasai giraffe (sub-)species may have begun to diverge as much as 1.6m years ago.
That they will interbreed in captivity and not in the wild suggests that there is some kind of inherited-learned sexual selection coming into play.