In the complex society of giraffes, grandmothers are essential for the preservation of the species

Giraffes are caring mothers and all adult females are committed to each other’s offspring

The giraffe is the tallest land animal in the worldcan measure almost 6 meters and its weight oscillates between 750 and 1,600 kilos. Even though it is so present in people’s minds, in fact its name is one of the first animal words that young children learn to say, experts assure that it is a little studied species, compared to others. Moreover, it is in danger of extinction.

The June 21 was established as World Giraffe Day, at the initiative of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, in order to raise awareness and provide support for the challenges facing this species in the wild.

the biologist Zoë Mullera giraffe specialist, stated that “It is puzzling that an African species as large, iconic and charismatic as giraffes is so little studied.” The expert is the author of the study A review of the social behavior of the giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis: a misunderstood but socially complex species, published in the magazine Mammal Review of the United Kingdom, co-authored with Professor Stephan Harris, both scientists University of Bristol.

The presence of postmenopausal females offers survival benefits to offspring (EFE/CIS/Emma Wells)
The presence of postmenopausal females offers survival benefits to offspring (EFE/CIS/Emma Wells)

That research team collected evidence that giraffes are a very socially complex species. The authors state that Until a decade ago, giraffes were thought to have little or no social structure. but in recent years it has been shown that these mammals they have social structures as advanced as those of elephants which are more studied.

Muller and Harris, researchers at the Bristol School of Biological Sciences, collected data showing that Giraffes spend 30% of their lives in a post-reproductive state. a high percentage that is comparable to other species with highly complex social structures and cooperative care, like elephants and killer whales, which spend 23% and 35% of their lives, respectively, in a post-reproductive state.

The scientists observed that the presence of postmenopausal females offers survival benefits to offspring. In mammals, including humans, this is known as the “grandma hypothesis” suggesting that females live well past menopause in order to help raise successive generations and thus ensure the preservation of their genes.

Zoe Muller, a giraffe specialist, stated that
Zoe Muller, a giraffe specialist, stated that “it is disconcerting that an African species as large, emblematic and charismatic as giraffes is so little studied” (Photo: Mexico Environment Secretariat)

According to this study, the presence of post-reproductive adult female giraffes could also work in the same way. “This paper brings together all the evidence to suggest that giraffes are actually a very complex social species, with highly functioning and intricate social systems, potentially comparable to elephants, cetaceans and chimpanzees,” Muller said.

“Recognizing that giraffes have a complex cooperative social system and live in matrilineal societies will further our understanding of their behavioral ecology and conservation needs.” the researcher said. In the work, both biologists detailed that giraffes are attentive mothers and all adult females are committed to each other’s offspring.

“Conservation measures will be more successful if we have an accurate understanding of the behavioral ecology of the species. If we consider giraffes as a species of great social complexity, this also raises their status to be a more complex and intelligent mammal that is increasingly worthy of protection”, concluded the biologist.

“Recognizing that giraffes have a complex cooperative social system and live in matrilineal societies will broaden our understanding of their behavioral ecology and conservation needs,” said the researcher (EFE/Mogens Trolle).

The giraffe is a fascinating animal, despite its size, in the race they can exceed 50 km per hour. We can define giraffes as calm, peaceful and social animals. Other of its characteristics is that they sleep standing up, like other species, for example horses. To rest they lock their legs, since lying down they only sleep a few minutes a day because this position makes them vulnerable to predators.

His tongue, up to 50 centimeters. allows them to reach the highest leaves and avoid the quills of the acacias. It is dark blue to protect it from sunburn. As long as the skin spots allow to distinguish the younger individuals from the older ones. The darker the stain, the older the individual.

It is an animal that can endure several days without drinking, because he does not sweat and it has a digestive system that allows it to obtain water from the leaves it ingests. In this sense, they surpass camels in their resistance to water needs.

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