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17 December 2014

Deforestation threatens species richness in streams ...

05 December 2014

Unsichtbare Arten - Bedrohte Arten sind in Verbreitungsmodellen unterrepräsentiert...

02 December 2014

Von der Forschung in die Praxis: „Algenmelder“ für Gewässer...

12 November 2014

On a safari through the genome – genes offer new insights into the distribution of giraffes...

31 October 2014

Frankfurter Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum (BiK-F) erhält Spitzenbewertung vom Wissenschaftsrat ...

23 October 2014

Vortrag „Long term dynamics in the Serengeti Ecosystem: Lessons for Conservation and Society “ ...

25 September 2014

Dengue fever and malaria in the Himalayas...

18 September 2014

Vorratshaltung beim Tannenhäher: Samenverstecke nutzen dem "gefiederten Förster" mehr als den Bäumen...

15 September 2014

The Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre opens its doors to the public...

11 September 2014

Pesticides are more toxic for soil organisms in dry soil and at enhanced temperatures ...

01 September 2014

Vortrag 4. September „The Climate Change Challenge and Opportunities“ ...

01 August 2014

More People Means More Plant Growth, NASA Data Show ...

25 July 2014

Erstmals Sandmücke in Hessen entdeckt...

09 July 2014

Climate change: Tropical species are most vulnerable to rising temperatures...

25 June 2014

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18 June 2014

Spanish slug – busting an invasion myth...

17 June 2014

The hidden history of rain: plant waxes reveal rainfall changes during the last 24,000 years...

11 June 2014

It’s complicated - new insights into the evolutionary history of bears ...

12 May 2014

A tale of survival – scientists reveals how fish were able to colonise poisonous springs...

08 May 2014

New ways for understanding the link between the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and species diversity...

29 April 2014

Gehen oder bleiben? – Neue Emmy Noether-Gruppe erforscht die Klima-Anpassung von Vögeln ...

08 April 2014

Mapping ecosystem services: New method shows seed dispersal pathways of hornbills...

26 March 2014

Study yields 'Genghis Khan' of brown bears, and brown and polar bear evolution...

18 March 2014

Ants plant tomorrow's rainforest...

04 March 2014

Allergikern blüht etwas: Erhöhte Fitness der Beifußambrosie in Europa nachgewiesen ...

12 February 2014

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05 February 2014

Aquatic Insects – a tremendous potential for research on diversification...

05 February 2014

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20 January 2014

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Press Releases

On a safari through the genome – genes offer new insights into the distribution of giraffes

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, November 17, 2014. A giraffe does not equal a giraffe – the species is currently divided into nine subspecies. Now, a team from the LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F), in conjunction with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, conducted a more detailed analysis of these animals’ spatial distribution in South Africa, based on their genetic profile. Among the project’s surprising findings was the discovery that the South African Giraffe also occurs in northeastern Namibia and northern Botswana, and the Angola Giraffe can be found as far as northwestern Namibia and southern Botswana. The results are aimed toward contributing to the improved protection of these unique animals and were recently published in the scientific journal “BMC Evolutionary Biology.”

The Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), a symbol of the African savanna and a fixed item on every safari’s agenda, is a fascinating animal. However, contrary to many of the continent’s other wild animals, these long-necked giants are still rather poorly studied. Based on their markings, distribution and genome, nine subspecies are recognized – including the two subspecies Angola Giraffe (Giraffa c. angolensis) and South African Giraffe (Giraffa c. giraffa).

South African Giraffes occur farther north than previously assumed
Like most other giraffes, these subspecies are now mainly found in nature reserves. Until recently, scientists assumed a clear demarcation of their ranges: Angola Giraffes occur in Namibia and northern Botswana, while South African Giraffes reside in southern Botswana and South Africa. “However, according to our studies, the distribution areas prove to be much more complex. South African Giraffes also occur in northeastern Namibia and northern Botswana, and Angola Giraffes can be found in northwestern Namibia and southern Botswana, as well,” explains the study’s author, Friederike Bock from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F). A look at the new distribution map reveals the presence of a population of Angola Giraffes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the world’s second-largest national park, quasi nestled between two populations of the South African Giraffe, with both subspecies living side by side.

Subspecies were the result of early geographic separation
According to the research team, the fact that two genetically distinct subspecies could develop within the same region may be explained by the local geographic conditions that prevailed approximately 500,000 to two million years ago. Back then, the mountain range along the East African Rift Valley was sinking, creating vast wetlands and lakes, such as the paleo lake Makgadikgadi. According to Professor Dr. Axel Janke from the BiK-F, “these large bodies of water may have separated the populations for long periods of time. Moreover, female giraffes likely do not migrate across long distances, thereby contributing to a clear separation of the maternal lines.” Today, there no longer exist any barriers that prevent the possible mingling of both subspecies; an investigation of these processes is however subject to further genetic analyses.

Angola and South African Giraffes can be uniquely identified by their maternal gene profile
For the study, the researchers created a profile of the subspecies’ mitochondrial DNA, using tissue samples from about 160 giraffes from various populations across the entire African continent. On the basis of this genetic material, inherited from the maternal side, the often similarly marked subspecies can be uniquely identified genetically and the relationships between various populations can be clearly demonstrated. “Our focus was on giraffes in southern Africa, in particular in Botswana and South Africa. There, we sampled populations that had not been genetically analyzed before,” says Bock.

New insights enable improved protection measures for the giraffe
According to estimates by the World Conservation Organization IUCN, the world’s giraffe population is about 100,000 individuals – showing a decreasing trend. In Botswana alone, the population has dwindled by more than half in recent years. In order to achieve effective protection measures that will preserve the majority of the giraffe’s subspecies, it is indispensable to gain knowledge that allows their reliable identification as well as detailed information regarding their distribution. The surprising results concerning the distribution of the two subspecies in Namibia and Botswana emphasize the importance of additional taxonomic research on all giraffe subspecies.

Paper:
Bock, F. et al. (2014): Mitochondrial sequences reveal a clear separation between Angolan and South African giraffe along a cryptic rift valley - BMC Evolutionary Biology, DOI: 10.1186/s12862-014-0219-7
http://tinyurl.com/kj2zgey

Press images:

Angolan Giraffes

Three young, male Angola giraffes. © Julian Fennessy, GCF [Download in 300 dpi] 

Terms of use:  Images may be used for editorial purposes only. Please state the copyright information as given in the image caption. Use of images for commercial purposes prohibited.

For more information please contact:

Prof. Dr. Axel Janke
Goethe University &
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
+49 (0)69 7542 1842
Axel.jahnke@senckenberg.de

or

Friederike Bock
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
+49 (0)69 7542 1830
friederike.bock@senckenberg.de

or

Sabine Wendler
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F),
Press officer
+49 (0)69 7542 1838
sabine.wendler@senckenberg.de

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