Baby Giraffes Get Their Spots From Mom

The distinctive patterns are inherited, according to new research that links spots to survival.

Why do giraffes have spots? And what governs their shape and pattern—are they inherited?

Perhaps surprisingly, these are riddles that scientists haven’t yet solved. This lack of certainty led researchers Derek Lee and his partner Monica Bond, who have been surveying giraffes in northern Tanzania since 2011, on a quest to find answers.

As described in a study published today in the journal PeerJ, the scientists found that certain aspects of a giraffe’s spot pattern are heritable, and appear to impact a young giraffe’s likelihood of survival. In particular, mothers giraffes appear to pass their spot roundness and smoothness (a measure technically known as “tortuousness”) on to calfs.

Having bigger, rounder spots seems to correlate with a higher survival rate for young

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