Scientists have spotted two dwarf giraffes in Africa and they are adorable to say the least. The new study published in BMC Research Notes that describes the rare animals explains that they likely suffer from skeletal dysplasia.
Abnormalities in bone development
"Skeletal dysplasias broadly refer to cartilaginous or skeletal disorders that may result in abnormalities in bone development. These developmental aberrations are sometimes characterized by shortened and irregularly proportioned appendicular skeletal anatomy, resulting in what is vernacularly described as disproportionate dwarfism," explains the study.
The two animals are Nubian giraffes spotted in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda and there's an additional Angolan giraffe witnessed on a private farm in central Namibia. "These giraffes exhibited extremely shortened radius and metacarpal bones relative to other similarly aged giraffes," states the study.
Surprisingly enough, the giraffes were both believed to be older than a year which is strange, considering the first year of a giraffe's life is the most vulnerable to predators, a situation made worse by the animals' short legs. Giraffes rely on running and kicking to deal with predators.
Long legs are essential
“Long legs are normally rather important for giraffes, since running and kicking are two of their most effective anti-predator tactics,” Michael Brown, a conservation biologist with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and author of the paper, told Gizmodo.
Brown also added that the giraffes are likely to encounter problems when mating in the future. Their small stature will not allow them to compete with other males in their age group.
The cause for these cases of dysplasia remains unclear. Normally, it is attributed to inbreeding and low genetic diversity, situations that could have occurred in the Ugandan population as there were less than 80 giraffes a few decades ago. The dwarf giraffes have been nicknamed Gimli and Nigel and will continue to be studied by Brown and his team.