Limited introgression supports division of giraffe into four species

Author(s)Sven Winter, Julian Fennessy and Axel Janke
Year Published2018
JournalEcology and Evolution
Page Numbers10156–10165
Size2.78 MB
Abstract:

All giraffe (Giraffa) were previously assigned to a single species (G. camelopardalis) and nine subspecies. However, multi-locus analyses of all subspecies have shown that there are four genetically distinct clades and suggest four giraffe species. This conclusion might not be fully accepted due to limited data and lack of explicit gene flow analyses. Here, we present an extended study based on 21 independent nuclear loci from 137 individuals. Explicit gene flow analyses identify less than one migrant per generation, including between the closely related northern and reticulated giraffe. Thus, gene flow analyses and population genetics of the extended dataset confirm four genetically distinct giraffe clades and support four independent giraffe species. The new findings support a revision of the IUCN classification of giraffe taxonomy. Three of the four species are threatened with extinction, and mostly occurring in politically unstable regions, and as such, require the highest conservation support possible.

Keywords: conservation, gene flow, giraffe, hybridization, speciation

Authors: Sven Winter, Julian Fennessy and Axel Janke

Journal: Ecology and Evolution


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