The giraffe is an African cloven-hoofed mammal and is considered to be the tallest terrestrial and herbivorous mammal. Giraffe is considered to be from only one species called Giraffa camelopardalis but it has nine different subspecies. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GFC) also considered the existence of up to eight different existing giraffe species based on the nuclear DNA as well as the morphological measurement of the giraffe. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation has also clarified that seven other species of giraffe have been extinct.
One of the most important characteristics of a Giraffe is that it has a long neck and legs and like all the mammal’s Giraffe has seven cervical vertebrae. On the top of their heads, Giraffe has a horn-like projection called the ossicones which are similar to the horns of a cow but are made of cartilages instead of bones. Giraffes also have a distinctive coat pattern on its body that makes them very beautiful. The pattern present on one giraffe will differ from another as it is unique. The Giraffes are herbivores and their food sources are basically fruits, leaves, and flowers of woody plants. Giraffes are scattered all over Africa which extends from Somalia in the east to Niger in the west and Chad in the north to South Africa in the south. Giraffes are one of the longest mammals and that is an advantage against the prey but then too they have been preyed on by leopards, Tigers, lions, and hyenas in the group.
Scientific Name of Giraffe and the Subspecies
Long-term research done by the GCF and other giraffe scientists has clearly identified the presence of only one species of Giraffe with no subspecies. There were several studies conducted in the span of the last two decades such as a 2007 study on the genetics of Giraffe which suggested it had six species. A detailed study of the morphology of Giraffe was done in the year 2011 which described the presence of eight species of living giraffe. Finally, a study which was done in the year concluded by saying that living giraffes consist of multiple species. The researchers who conducted these studies came to a conclusion that there is the existence of four species of Giraffe which have not exchanged the genetic material between each other for more than 2 million years. Since the studies were published the response has been mostly negative as it has several problems in the data interpretation.
In 2020, research was done by the GCF finally accepted the four species concept for Giraffe and have stated that many researchers have identified four species of Giraffe in Africa which are Reticulated giraffe, southern giraffe, northern giraffe, and the Masai giraffe and it has several subspecies. All the four Giraffe species and their respective subspecies live in different areas of Africa and there are approximately around 12,000 remaining in the wild.
The four species concept is based on the research done by the Giraffe conservation foundation(GCF) in collaboration with the Biodiversity and climate research center located in Germany. After collecting more than 10,00 DNA samples from different giraffe populations in Africa, the GCF have concluded the Four species and eight species concept for the Giraffe. Below the species and the respective subspecies are given which is based on the research done by the GCF.
Masai Giraffe(Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) also called the Kilimanjaro giraffe is the largest subspecies of giraffe.It is the native of East Africa and its total number is 35,000.
Northern Giraffe(Giraffa camelopardalis) is also known as the three-horned giraffe. It is one of the giraffe species in Africa and its total number is 5,700. Other subspecies related to the northern Giraffe are the Nubian Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis Camelopardalis), Kordofan Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum), West African Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis Peralta)
Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) is also known as the Somali giraffe is the native of Africa. It lives in the regions of northern Kenya and Somalia. There are approximately 8,500 Reticulated Giraffes living in the wild.
The southern giraffe(Giraffa Giraffa) is also known as the two-horned giraffe. It is one of the species of giraffe which is a native of South Africa. Southern Giraffe is known for its rounded spots and star-like extensions running all across the body. There are approximately around 44,700 individuals of the southern Giraffe in Africa. Other subspecies related to the southern Giraffe are Angolan Giraffe (Giraffa Giraffa angolensis) and South African Giraffe (Giraffa Giraffa giraffa)