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Giraffe Spot Inheritance

October 8, 2018

Scientists discover that giraffes inherit their spots.

Transcript

Baby giraffes inherit their spots (Derek Lee/Wild Nature Institute/Penn State)

Baby giraffes inherit their spots (Derek Lee/Wild Nature Institute/Penn State)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Giraffes’ spotty inheritance. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Each giraffe has its own unique pattern of spots. Now, researchers report in the journal PeerJ that the size and shape of those spots is inherited. Penn State biologist Derek Lee’s team compared spot patterns between mother giraffes and their babies. They found that not only do mothers pass down specific features of their spots to their offpspring, but calves with especially large and irregular spot patterns were more likely to survive.

DEREK LEE (Penn State):

This evidence supports the camouflage theory that the spots exist so that the calves, when they’re hiding in the bushes in the first few weeks of life, will be harder to detect by visual predators like lions and hyenas.

HIRSHON:

Lee says this could be part of the reason spots evolved in giraffes, but that thermoregulation and social communication may also play a role. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

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