You Can’t Tell A Giraffe By Its Spots

You Can’t Tell A Giraffe By Its Spots

Giraffes have never been so exciting to talk about! Listen to our podcast about an amazing discovery!  

Voiced by Vivica Williams

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Scientists are often finding new species of living organisms. Usually, it is something small, like a frog, fish or insect. Usually we discover new species in a place where humans have not explored very much, like the Amazon rainforest or deep in the ocean.

A species is a group of living organisms that are very similar and that can share DNA. All cats, for example, are in one big family, but that family has 41 species. Your housecat can't breed with a tiger, which means they can't have kittens together. That's because they aren't the same species and can't share DNA. But they're in the same family, because they are all related and have a lot in common.

We often think that we can tell species apart just by looking at them, like a housecat and a tiger. But many species are very hard to tell apart. For more than two hundred years, scientists believed that all giraffes were in the same species. Can you tell the difference between giraffes just by looking at their spots? Well, scientists also couldn't. They thought all giraffes could share DNA.

Giraffes were never studied as closely as other African animals like elephants, lions, or gorillas. Researchers collected DNA from giraffes for five years. In 2016, they finished their research. When they looked at the results, they discovered that they were FOUR very different species of giraffe! The species are as different from each other as white polar bears are different from black bears. The four species live in separate parts of Africa and cannot share DNA.

Giraffes are in great danger in the wild. Using this new information, governments and scientists can give each species the protection and help to survive.