Giraffes are ‘choosy' when hanging out with friends

January 23, 2013
Like humans, giraffes choose who they want to hang out with. Credit: UQ's Kerryn Carter of giraffes at Etosha National Park

(—Studying social relationships among female giraffes may provide essential information for the management and conservation of the species, a study by The University of Queensland (UQ) has found.

Lead researcher, Ms Kerryn Carter, from UQ's School of observed the social groupings of 535 individually identified wild giraffes in Etosha National Park in Namibia for 14 months.

The study discovered that giraffes have more complex relationships and social networks than previously thought, and this is of importance to understanding the evolution of animal and human sociality.

"Giraffes show a fission-fusion social system, like humans, where individuals temporarily associate so that the numbers and identities of individuals in groups changes frequently," Ms Carter said.

"Until recently, giraffes were thought to show no apparent pattern to their relationships."

Ms Carter looked at the frequency at which each pair associated, while taking into account how much their home ranges overlapped, and thus their ability to meet on a regular basis.

Her results have been published in the scientific journal .

"We found, rather than females interacting non-selectively as previously thought, individual female giraffes preferred to be in groups with particular females and avoided others," Ms Carter said.

"Surprisingly, home range overlap and kinship together did not explain much about these female-female relationships."

Females' individual , their ages and their reproductive states may contribute to their choices of female associates.

Research is continuing on to understand which factors contribute to these preferences.

Understanding the patterns of social networks in species such as giraffes helps us understand how diseases may spread through a population and how individuals may learn about their environments from one another; such understanding is therefore important for conservation.

Such preferred and avoided relationships have been documented in other fission-fusion taxa such as eastern grey kangaroos, bottlenose dolphins, northern long-eared myotis bats and of course humans.

"These similarities in the social systems of these varied species are surprising given how much the ecology of these species differs," said Ms Carter.

Explore further: Fighting for their attention

More information:

Related Stories

Fighting for their attention

April 4, 2007

Mating strategies are straightforward in bottlenose dolphins, or are they? Much of the work carried on male-female relationships in that species to date show that males tend to coerce females who are left with little choice ...

Females decide whether ambitious males float or flounder

January 30, 2008

Aggression, testosterone and nepotism don’t necessarily help one climb the social ladder, but the support of a good female can, according to new research on the social habits of an unusual African species of fish.

Niger rare giraffe population makes a comeback

March 7, 2012

The last West African giraffes, now living in the wild only in southwestern Niger, are making a comeback with numbers standing at 310 last year, the environment ministry said here Wednesday.

Male dolphins build complex teams for social success

March 28, 2012

( -- Male dolphins not only form a series of complex alliances based on their close relatives and friends but these alliances also form a shifting mosaic of overlapping geographic ranges within in an open social ...

Recommended for you

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Insect DNA extracted, sequenced from black widow spider web

November 25, 2015

Scientists extracted DNA from spider webs to identify the web's spider architect and the prey that crossed it, according to this proof-of-concept study published November 25, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Charles ...

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 23, 2013
I personally find, like giraffes, that maintaining social interactions at times can be a pain in the neck.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 23, 2013
beware, dirt of complexity level, too great; good faith, good will, he will just have to intervene

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.