Story at a glance

  • Scientists from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation published an article last month in the journal BMC Research Notes detailing how two dwarf giraffes in separate populations in Namibia and Uganda were discovered.
  • After researchers measured the dimensions of the two giraffes and compared them to others in the local population, they concluded the animals had skeletal dysplasia, or dwarfism.
  • It’s unclear at this time what caused dwarfism among the two giraffes, although random mutations can cause dwarfism as well as low genetic diversity or inbreeding.

Researchers say they have recently discovered the first known cases of dwarfism among the tallest mammals on Earth.

Scientists from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) published an article last month in the journal BMC Research Notes detailing how two dwarf giraffes in separate populations in Namibia and Uganda were discovered during routine photographic surveys to determine the animals' numbers and population dynamics. 


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


In 2015, researchers came across an adult giraffe, now known as Gimli, in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park that measured just taller than 9 feet, a far cry from the animal’s average height of about 16 feet. Just three years after the puzzling discovery, scientists discovered Nigel on a private farm in Namibia, a four-year-old giraffe that measured at just 8 feet.

“While the Namibian farmer had spotted Nigel regularly over the years, it was only after our observations that he released that Nigel was not a juvenile but a fully grown male giraffe. It is mainly in comparison to other giraffes that his difference in stature becomes obvious,” Emma Wells, a researcher with the GCF, said in a statement

After researchers measured the dimensions of the two giraffes and compared them to others in the local population, they found the animals had shorter legs compared to other giraffes of similar age and concluded the animals had skeletal dysplasia, or dwarfism. 

While the condition has been known to occur in humans and domestic animals, it is rarely seen among wild animals and is the first time it has been observed in giraffes. 

“Instances of wild animals with these types of skeletal dysplasias are extraordinarily rare,” Michael Brown, lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “It’s another interesting wrinkle in the unique story of giraffe in these diverse ecosystems.” 

It’s unclear at this time what caused dwarfism among the two giraffes, although random mutations can cause dwarfism as well as low genetic diversity or inbreeding. 

Giraffes have seen a population decline of 40 percent in the past three decades, and there are approximately 68,000 left in the wild. The longevity of the animal is threatened by loss of habitat and poaching. 


READ MORE LIKE THIS FROM CHANGING AMERICA

WILDLIFE GROUPS CHALLENGE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ON GRAY WOLF DELISTING

THERE’S AT LEAST ONE GROUP 2020 WAS GOOD FOR: GREAT WHITE SHARKS

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ALLOWS FOR THE KILLING OF NATIVE ELK TO APPEASE RANCHERS, ANGERING CONSERVATIONISTS

CRY LEVIATHAN: A WARNING FROM THE WORLD’S WHALES

SAVING THE ARCTIC: THE WISDOM OF THE INUIT AND THE FUTURE OF THE NORTH POLE


 

Published on Jan 19, 2021