Reframing the reticulated giraffe

Which iNaturalists would identify the following as the reticulated giraffe? https://www.discoverimages.com/herd-reticulated-giraffes-common-zebra-background-5743413.html#openModal and https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/herd-of-reticulated-giraffes-in-laikipia-landscape-royalty-free-image/1046940850?adppopup=true.

I offer this Post in aid of sharpening your search-image.

Everyone knows that a diagnostic feature of the reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) is the conversion of the normal blotchiness of giraffes into a network effect (http://cannundrum.blogspot.com/2014/08/reticulated-giraffe.html and https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/989443/view/reticulated-giraffe-young-standing-close-to-its-mother and https://similarbutdifferentanimals.com/2017/08/27/kenyan-giraffes-whats-the-difference-between-a-masai-a-reticulated-and-a-rothschilds-giraffe/).

However, several features seem to have been overlooked in the literature (e.g. see https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/milewski/48447-conspicuous-features-of-colouration-in-giraffes# and https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/milewski/59814-the-puzzle-of-conspicuous-pallor-in-a-sahelian-giraffe-part-1#). So it may be time to re-define the reticulated giraffe from a broader perspective.

Here we have the most uniformly-coloured and most thoroughly camouflaged of all giraffes (https://www.dreamstime.com/reticulated-giraffe-digital-painting-large-male-computer-oil-image198653708 and https://www.westend61.de/en/imageView/RHPLF07893/reticulated-giraffe-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-kalama-conservancy-samburu-kenya-east-africa-africa).

The auricular and caudal flags are the same as in other giraffes. The back-of ear is a sheeny whitish (https://www.robertharding.com/preview/1-24428/reticulated-giraffe-samburu-national-reserve-kenya-east-africa/) and the tail-tassel is black (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LRkGVhmXx8
https://www.canstockphoto.com/reticulated-giraffe-walking-in-the-15692006.html).

Here is a reminder of what a laryngeal flag looks like, located on the crook of the throat: https://stock.adobe.com/sk/search?filters%5Bcontent_type%3Aphoto%5D=1&filters%5Bcontent_type%3Aillustration%5D=1&filters%5Bcontent_type%3Azip_vector%5D=1&filters%5Bcontent_type%3Avideo%5D=0&filters%5Bcontent_type%3Atemplate%5D=0&filters%5Bcontent_type%3A3d%5D=0&filters%5Bcontent_type%3Aaudio%5D=0&filters%5Binclude_stock_enterprise%5D=0&filters%5Bis_editorial%5D=0&filters%5Bfree_collection%5D=0&filters%5Bcontent_type%3Aimage%5D=1&k=%22masai+giraffe%22&order=relevance&price%5B%24%5D=1&safe_search=1&limit=100&search_page=13&search_type=pagination&get_facets=0&asset_id=127433778.

There is no laryngeal flag in Giraffa reticulata:
https://www.robertharding.com/preview/817-127671/reticulated-giraffe-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-samburu-national-reserve/
https://africafreak.com/reticulated-giraffe
https://animal.fandom.com/wiki/Reticulated_Giraffe?file=Giraffe1.jpg
https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/reticulated-giraffe-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-samburu-648809500
https://www.westend61.de/en/imageView/RHPLF07894/a-portrait-of-a-reticulated-giraffe-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-kalama-conservancy-samburu-kenya-east-africa-africa

Giraffa reticulata lacks the pale and/or spotless patches on the cheeks that are seen in other giraffes (see https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/milewski/60109-the-differentially-patterned-faces-of-the-various-giraffes#).

Giraffa reticulata differs from its neighbour, Giraffa tippelskirchi, in having smaller horn-tufts, and this is most noticeable in infants. In the case of the occipital horn-tufts (see https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/milewski/59906-occipital-horn-tufts-a-previously-overlooked-feature-of-certain-giraffes#), there is virtual absence in Giraffa reticulata. These features have previously been overlooked but are surely taxonomically significant.

Returning to the topic of flags, let us review the colouration of the lower legs.

The fetlocks and pasterns are pale and spotless in all giraffes. However, this does not qualify as conspicuous unless the pale spotlessness:

  • is abruptly defined by relative darkness just above the fetlocks (as in the pedal flag of Giraffa tippelskirchi), or
  • extends to the whole of the lower legs (as in the pedal flag of Giraffa camelopardalis).

By these standards, there is no pedal flag in Giraffa reticulata:
https://www.dreamstime.com/reticulated-giraffe-samburu-national-reserve-feeding-kenya-image182437028
https://www.alamy.com/a-reticulated-giraffe-standing-in-the-open-at-shaba-national-reserve-in-kenya-image223136384.html

Many photos labelled as reticulata do show lower legs pale enough to qualify as a pedal flag, but these are mainly from the Laikipia region of Kenya (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/30528961) and from zoos (https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/news-photo/reticulated-giraffes-seen-at-the-wroclaw-zoological-garden-news-photo/1226313463?adppopup=true and https://naturerules1.fandom.com/wiki/Reticulated_Giraffe?file=D4y0zv7-751d12ae-d3a6-478e-a05c-320ec6721756.jpg), where there has been hybridisation with Giraffa camelopardalis.

The following unhybridised individual shows the maximum paleness on the feet in the true Giraffa reticulata, which does not qualify as a pedal flag: https://focusedcollection.com/167577218/stock-photo-reticulated-giraffe-standing-on-ground.html.

The most nebulous and individually variable of the flags is the ilial flag.

Here is a reminder of what an ilial flag looks like, in Giraffa giraffa giraffa: https://www.shutterstock.com/nb/image-photo/two-giraffes-standing-bushland-chobe-flood-1282706323 and https://www.shutterstock.com/nb/image-photo/south-african-giraffe-cape-giraffa-herd-1173965401.

There is no ilial flag in Giraffa reticulata:
https://artofsafari.travel/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Shutterstock_Kenya_Samburu_ReticulatedGiraffe.jpg
https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/reticulated-giraffes-on-lewa-downs-royalty-free-image/534357716?adppopup=true
http://shutterstock.puzzlepix.hu/kep/1846122715.

There is also no pectoral flag in Giraffa reticulata.

Most forms of giraffes show masculine darkening in maturity (see https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/milewski/59836-the-puzzle-of-conspicuous-pallor-in-a-sahelian-giraffe-part-2-as-opposed-to-masculine-darkness#). However, I have het to find any photo on the Web that shows this in Giraffa reticulata.

Turning to the head again, the form of the forehead and rostrum is somewhat distinctive in both sexes of Giraffa reticulata.

The bump on the forehead is relatively abrupt. In mature males, the rostrum (anterior to the forehead) tends to remain free of enlargement by ossification:

female:
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/reticulated-giraffe-head-profile-gm177117647-1906905
https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/reticulated-giraffe-browsing-on-acacia-leaves-royalty-free-image/520073474?adppopup=true
https://www.dreamstime.com/girafe-reticulee-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-reticulated-giraffe-head-adult-behind-acacia-tree-samburu-park-kenya-image170944255

male:
https://www.alamy.com/head-portrait-of-reticulated-giraffe-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-samburu-national-reserve-kenya-africa-image262992203.html
https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/news-photo/close-up-of-two-reticulated-giraffes-in-the-samburu-news-photo/1053083674?adppopup=true
https://www.dreamstime.com/reticulated-giraffe-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-bird-its-neck-red-billed-oxpecker-buphagus-erythrorhynchus-samburu-image196305808
https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-reticulated-giraffe-head-shot-samburu-national-reserve-kenya-africa-31573358.html
https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/news-photo/reticulated-giraffe-giraffa-camelopardalis-reticulata-close-news-photo/578258890?adppopup=true
https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/reticulated-giraffe-portrait-samburu-national-royalty-free-image/1311465280?adppopup=true

Compare the latter with mature males of Giraffa tippelskirchi, in which not only the forehead bump but also the rostrum become ossified: https://www.alamy.com/close-up-view-of-the-head-of-a-male-giraffe-in-profile-image338486132.html. The following pair of photos summarises the differences: https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/giraffe-in-east-tsavo-park-in-kenya-gm648585952-117758575 vs https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/giraffe-close-up-head-gm531121873-55115448.

Another difference between Giraffa reticulata and the hybrid population in the Laikipia region is that, in the latter, some individual mature males develop pallor on the head (e.g. https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/news-photo/male-reticulated-giraffe-stands-in-the-lewa-wildlife-news-photo/1234044912?adppopup=true).

Having begun this Post with a test, let me end it with another along similar lines. iNaturalists, how would you identify the following? https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/giraffes-walking-royalty-free-image/522081236?adppopup=true.

Posted by milewski milewski, November 19, 2021 21:22

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