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Giraffe DNA study identifies four distinct species

BBC News

Genetic research into giraffes has revealed there are four distinct species of Earth's tallest mammal, not one as was previously believed.

I know what you know


Dogs recognize that individuals have distinct perspectives. Theory of mind involves recognizing that others have a distinct perspective. Such an ability is difficult to identify in species that cannot tell you about their thoughts, but research over the past decade or so has shown that it is not unique to humans, being present in at least apes and corvids. Dogs, which coevolved with humans, are excellent at reading our cues but have not been shown experimentally to "read" our minds. Catala et al. tested pet dogs for their ability to recognize when a particular observer has important knowledge through a classic knower-guesser test.

How One Giraffe Became More. Specifically, Four.


In all seriousness, though--what constitutes a new species? A distinct species is largely defined by the animals' ability to produce viable offspring with each other. The paper notes that "wild giraffes are highly mobile and can interbreed in captivity," which may explain why biologists assumed they were all the same species (just with slightly different spots). But it turns out that in the wild, these four distinct species of giraffe are "reproductively isolated," and their genetics show distinction large enough to warrant listing them each as individual species. Janke notes the reason that this was never noticed before is likely in part because giraffes are not popular research subjects compared with other African megafauna like lions, elephants, and rhinos.

[Report] Design of structurally distinct proteins using strategies inspired by evolution


Proteins are the workhorses of biology. Designing new, stable proteins with functions desirable in biotechnology or biomedicine remains challenging. Jacobs et al. developed a computational method called SEWING that designs proteins using pieces of existing structures (see the Perspective by Netzer and Fleishman). The new proteins can contain structural features such as pockets or grooves that are required for function. The solved structures of two designed proteins agreed well with the design models.