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

(Phys.org)—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: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347212005246

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

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
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.
tthb
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.