Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Dwarfism documented for first time in wild giraffes

a)   Image of a male giraffe with normal bone development. b) Image of a male with skeletal dysplasia-like syndrome discovered in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. c) Image of a male with skeletal dysplasia-like syndrome discovered on a private farm in Namibia.  

A disorder affecting the normal development of cartilage and bone has been observed in wild giraffes. While skeletal dysplasia, or dwarfism, has been observed in captive and domestic animals such as dogs, cows, rats, pigs and marmosets, it is not often seen in wild animals. In a new study, researchers used photography to document the condition for the first time in a wild Nubian giraffe calf (Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis) in Uganda as well as an Angolan giraffe (Giraffa giraffa angolensis) in Namibia.   

It is not clear why these animals developed skeletal dysplasia. Sometimes this occurs in wild animals when there is an increase in inbreeding. However, genetic analyses showed relatively little inbreeding in these populations. Unfortunately, the researchers reported that the giraffe in Uganda has not been seen since May 2017. They speculate that having shorter legs may limit the animal’s mobility and increase risk of predation.


MB Brown, E Wells. Skeletal dysplasia-like syndromes in wild giraffe. BMC Research Notes.13: 569, 2020.

Categories: Reproduction and Development

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