A new paper confidently claims that there are four giraffe species rather than one, but I’m not so sure

It is likely we have all heard the news ‘DNA studies have revealed there are actually 4 extant Giraffe species instead of one.’

Jerry Coyne, explains why this might not be so. It is a great article and the arguments he puts forth are quite solid. Enjoy!

Why Evolution Is True

The giraffe, Giraffa cameleopardalis, was first described by Linnaeus, and gets its species name from its fancied resemblance to a hybrid beast (as Wikipedia notes, the name comes from the Greek καμηλοπάρδαλις” meaning “giraffe”, from “κάμηλος” (kamēlos), “camel” + “πάρδαλις” (pardalis), “leopard”, due to its having a long neck like a camel and spots like a leopard). It’s always been considered a single species, but divided into about a half dozen subspecies that live in different areas and are distinguishable by different patterns of reticulation in their coats. Here’s an old subspecies designation and map; note that the populations included in each of the six subspecies live in different areas:

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-7-22-35-am

Here’s a classification of nine subspecies based on pattern (the number of named subspecies has been between four and about nine (I haven’t searched extensively).

do-you-know-your-giraffes

Note that this classification is more or less arbitrary because the populations are geographically isolated and so…

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