Researchers Find Giraffes That Have Stubby Legs Like Corgis

Giraffes are known for being tall. But it turns out that just like humans, there is a large variety of shapes and sizes. Recently, scientists discovered that giraffes can have skeletal dysplasia, also known as dwarfism. They found two dwarf giraffes in different wild giraffe communities. This is an exciting development because skeletal dysplasia rarely occurs in the wild.

The dwarf giraffes had shorter legs than other giraffes.


Skeletal dysphasia does not necessarily shorten all joints equally. In the giraffes, their legs were primarily affected. In the image above, giraffe A has typical proportions. Giraffe B is the dwarf giraffe that was found in Murchison Falls National Park.

The researchers named one of the giraffes after a dwarf from the *Lord of the Rings*, Gimli.

The researchers came to know the giraffe populations quite well. Their fur patterns are unique and help the researchers identify individuals. So, they were shocked to see a short adult male giraffe. Michael Brown, a co-author of the paper, told Gizmodo, "The [park] ranger we were working with and I, we looked at each other sort of to confirm that we were seeing the same thing."

People mistook the dwarf giraffes for juveniles for years.

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Nigel, the dwarf giraffe in Namibia, was first noticed by a farmer. Emma Wells, a co-author of the paper, explained, "While the Namibian farmer had spotted Nigel regularly over the years, it was only after our observations that he realized that Nigel was not a juvenile but a fully grown male giraffe," said Emma Wells. "It is mainly in comparison to other giraffe that his difference in stature becomes obvious."

It is difficult to know if the giraffes will face more challenges.

Both dwarf giraffes live in areas that are protected from predators. So, it is less likely that their small stature will affect their survival. However, they will be at a significant disadvantage when mating. Both dwarfs are male. Male giraffes spar with other males to gain access to mates. The dwarfs will not be able to kick other males as effectively. Should the dwarf giraffes overcome the odds and vanquish their foes, there are further logistical complications. The female giraffes are twice as tall as the dwarfs, making copulation unlikely.

The discovery also sheds light on the need for more conservation efforts.

"Giraffe are undergoing a silent extinction in Africa. The fact that this is the first description of dwarf giraffe is just another example of how little we know about these charismatic animals," explained Julian Fennessy, who is the co-Founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. "It is only recently that our research has shown that there are four distinct species of giraffe. There is just so much more to learn about giraffe in Africa, and we need to stand tall now to save them before it is too late."

h/t: BMC

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