Today’s Solutions: May 31, 2023

Until ten years ago, researchers didn’t think that giraffes had much of a social structure at all, but more contemporary research indicates that these long-necked mammals are more social than we give them credit for. Adding to this, a new study from the University of Bristol indicates that giraffes are a highly complex matrilineal species.

The team reviewed 404 previous papers on giraffe behavior and found that their social skills could actually be on par with the complexity of orcas and other intelligent mammals. The researchers specifically looked at the role of matriarchs in populations and the time spent rearing young.

One of the primary findings is that giraffes appear to engage in the grandmother hypothesis, commonly found in whales, in which older animals are hardwired to help raise younger generations to ensure the continued survival of the group as a whole. Giraffes spend 30 percent of their lives in this post-reproductive period compared to elephants and orcas which each spend 23 and 35 percent of their lives in this period, respectively.

“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 … If we view giraffes as a highly socially complex species, this also raises their ‘status’ towards being a more complex and intelligent mammal that is increasingly worthy of protection,” says lead study author Zoe Muller.

Source study: Mammal ReviewA review of the social behaviour of the giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis: a misunderstood but socially complex species

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