Subspecific assessment of the North American captive giraffe population compared to extant giraffe populations across Africa

Approximately 25% of the North American captive giraffe population (n = 125) was compared to a large data set of wild-sampled giraffe from 28 national parks, refuges, and protected areas in Africa (n = 403).  The wild-sampled individuals are a part of a larger study being conducted by the International Giraffe Specialist Group (IGSG) towards the resolution of questions regarding the evolution, population genetics, ecology, behavior, census, and ranges of extant populations of giraffe throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.  The samples were screened across a battery of 16 published microsatellite loci (Huebinger et al., 2002) and one novel locus (unpublished).  Population genetic parameters were estimated using GenePop v.3.2 (Raymond and Roussett, 1995) and FSTAT v.2.9.3 (Goudet, 1995; 2001).  Population assignment analyses were performed using the assignment programs WHICHRUN v.4.1 (Banks and Eichert, 2000) and STRUCTURE v.2.1 (Prichard et al., 2000).  The results show that the Reticulated and Rothschild’s giraffe subspecific representatives in the captive population are largely not in agreement with the pure subspecies based on the genetic architecture of the populations as sampled today across the extant range of giraffe in Africa.  Additionally, among animals classified as Reticulated, Rothschild’s and hybrids between the two in the captive population, genetic differentiation has been significantly confounded such that only about half are in agreement with the assigned subspecies compared to the free-ranging and conserved populations.  Captive Maasai giraffe sampled, though, are largely in agreement with the wild populations of Maasai giraffe sampled in southeastern Kenya but not those from Serengeti parks and reserves.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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