(NEXSTAR) – What do you get when you cross a giraffe with the body of a horse? A very tiny giraffe, almost half the size of its long-necked brethren.
For the first time ever, scientists in Uganda and Namibia have discovered two dwarf giraffes in the wild, clocking them at 9 feet, 4 inches tall and 8-1/2 feet tall. The standard giraffe stretches roughly 16 feet into the sky, making it the tallest animal on the planet.
Scientists first spotted a dwarf giraffe in December 2015, in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park. They recorded a second dwarf giraffe in central Namibia in May 2018.
What’s so odd about these pint-sized animals is that their necks are the standard size — approximately five-feet-long — while their bodies are about the size of a horse.
Researchers, who published their findings in the journal BMC Research Notes last week, believe the dwarf giraffes are suffering from skeletal dysplasia-like syndromes, which, per the study, refers to “cartilaginous or skeletal disorders that may result in abnormalities in bone development.”
The syndrome has been previously described in dogs, cows, pigs, rats and common marmosets.
But, as the study notes, “observations of wild animals with forms of skeletal dysplasia are rare.” Previously observed wild animals with the syndrome include sightings of a red deer in Scotland with chondrodysplasia (an abnormality near the ends of bones and in cartilage) and an Asian elephant with disproportionate dwarfism in Sri Lanka.
What’s to blame for the skeletal dysplasia? “It’s difficult to say for certain,” study co-author Michael B. Brown told IFL Science, “but we speculate that these skeletal dysplasias may be associated with some genetic disorder.”
The dwarf giraffes may face some hurdles in their lifetimes. Brown told the New York Times that their small stature may make them “more susceptible to predation,” while he speculates that “mating would be physically challenging.”