Commenced in January 2007
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Search results for: Giraffidae

1 Molecular Evidence for Three Species of Giraffa

Authors: Alice Petzold, Alexandre Hassanin

Abstract:

The number of giraffe species has been in focus of interest since the exploration of sub-Saharan Africa by European naturalists during the 18th and 19th centuries, as previous taxonomists, like Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Richard Owen or William Edward de Winton, recognized two or three species of Giraffa. For the last decades, giraffes were commonly considered as a single species subdivided into nine subspecies. In this study, we have re-examined available nuclear and mitochondrial data. Our genetic admixture analyses of seven introns support three species: G. camelopardalis (i.e., northern giraffes including reticulated giraffes), G. giraffa (southern giraffe) and G. tippelskirchi (Masai giraffe). However, the nuclear alignments show small variation and our phylogenetic analyses provide high support only for the monophyly of G. camelopardalis. Comparisons with the mitochondrial tree revealed a robust conflict for the position and monophyly of G. giraffa and G. tippelskirchi, which is explained firstly by a mitochondrial introgression from Masai giraffe to southeastern giraffe, and secondly, by gene flow mediated by male dispersal between southern populations (subspecies angolensis and giraffa). We conclude that current data gives only moderate support for three giraffe species and point out that additional nuclear data need to be studied to revise giraffe taxonomy.

Keywords: autosomal markers, Giraffidae, mitochondrial introgression, taxonomy

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