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Giraffes are a more diverse group than once thought, with scientists recently identifying four distinct species.
Since giraffes were first described in the 18th century, these long-necked mammals were thought of as one species, with nine subspecies emerging over subsequent decades.
But researchers have discovered that giraffes are more diverse than previously suspected, thanks to extensive DNA analysis — the most comprehensive ever performed for these well-known but not very well-studied animals — which revealed four species that did not interbreed.
The physical differences between the four giraffe species aren't dramatic. But this discovery could significantly impact conservation efforts, leading to initiatives that better address needs that vary across species.