Are Camels And Giraffes Related?

Despite sharing some relations and being part of the same order, Artiodactyla, camels and giraffes are not that closely related. The closest relative to the giraffe is the okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, or zebra giraffe. The closest relatives of the camels are llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos.

Both have long legs and necks, it is natural why so many people have the same question: are camels and giraffes related?

are camels and giraffes related

Scientists classify all organisms in the world into different categories (taxon) based on their shared characteristics. Different taxa can be further grouped together and create a category of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy.

There are seven main taxonomic ranks: kingdom, phylum or division, class, order, family, genus, species.

This taxonomic classification often provides useful information about the evolutionary history and how an organism is related to another. 

Camels and giraffes are members of the same kingdom (Animalia), they both belong to the same phylum (Chordata), they are both members of the same class (Mammalia), and members of the same order (Artiodactyla). This is where their relation stops.

Camels and giraffes are not members of the same family. Camels belong to the Camelidae family, while giraffes belong to the Girrafidae family. 

Taxonomic hierarchy

The Camelidae family includes 3 existing genera:

  • Camelus
  • Lama
  • Vicuna

..and 7 species:

  • Domesticated one-hump dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius)
  • Domesticated two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus)
  • Wild two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus)
  • Domesticated llama (Lama glama)
  • Wild guanaco (Lama guanicoe)
  • Domesticated alpaca (Vicugna pacos)
  • Wild vicuna (Vicugna vicugna)

Further reading: Are llamas and giraffes closely related?

The Girrafidae family includes 2 genera:

  • Okapia
  • Giraffa

..and 2 species:

  • Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
  • Okapi (Okapia johnstoni)

Note: Recent genetical discoveries suggest that there might be more than just one species of giraffe. Some studies mention 3, other 4, and some even 8 species. [1

A recent 2021 study suggests that there might be 4 species of camels:

  • Northern giraffe (G. Camelopardalis)
  • Reticulated giraffe (G. Reticulata)
  • Masai giraffe (G. Tippelskirchi)
  • Southern giraffe (G. Giraffa)

Camels are tylopods, pad-footed, even-toed, hoofed mammals that belong to the suborder Tylopoda (order Artiodactyla).

Giraffes are ruminants, even-toed ungulate mammals that chew the cud regurgitated from their rumen and belong to the suborder Ruminantia (order Artiodactyla).

Further reading: Other animals camels are related to

What Do Camels And Giraffes Have In Common?

The hoofed mammals, or ungulates (clade Ungulata), are the third-largest group of mammals that live today (after rodents and bats). 

They include 2 major families: the odd-toed perissodactyls (horses, rhinos, and tapirs) and even-toed artiodactyls (pigs, peccaries, hippos, camels, giraffes, pronghorns, cattle, sheep, deer, and antelopes).

Camels and giraffes have in common that they are both members of the order Artiodactyla and that they bear their weight on an even number of their toes, their third and fourth. A giraffe is not in the camel family.

When it comes to their ancestral lineage, camels and giraffes had a common ancestor in the Eocene, some 50 million years ago. Giraffes evolved in Africa; camels evolved in North America.

Some 45 million years ago, the first camels appeared. They were extremely small, rabbit-sized, lived in forests, and browsed on soft vegetation. 

As time went by, camels grew in size and diversified into different families. Some were even bigger than giraffes, such as Titanotylopus and Gigantocamelus.

Aepycamelus or the long-necked camel was a camel species that had a characteristically extremely long neck, 5 to 6 feet long (2 m), just like a giraffe.

The first giraffes appeared around 25 million years ago. Judging by their fossil records, nearly all giraffes (both extinct and living) were short-necked, much like the modern okapi. Some giraffe’s ancestors, like Sivatherium, were stocky creatures with broad horns similar to those of a moose. Others looked more like deer or antelopes. [2]

Only today’s genus Giraffa has the long neck that we consider typical of the group. 

Climate changes and habitat transformations from extensive forests to more open habitats are considered the primary drivers for the evolution of camels and giraffes.

Camels and giraffes are related, but not very closely. They shared a common ancestor some 50 million years ago. They are both even-toed mammals that belong to the same order, Artiodactyla. However, camels and giraffes belong to different families, the Camelidae and the Girrafidae.

This brings our article examining the question “are camels and giraffes related” to an end. We have an article examining if camels and llamas are related and if camels and alpacas are related. Check them out.


References

[1] Coimbra, Raphael TF, et al. “Whole-genome analysis of giraffe supports four distinct species.” Current Biology (2021).

[2] Prothero, Donald R. “Evolutionary transitions in the fossil record of terrestrial hoofed mammals.” Evolution: Education and Outreach 2.2 (2009): 289-302.

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