Individual-based studies where animals are monitored through space and time enable explorations of ecology, demography, evolutionary biology, movements, and behavior. Here, we review 70 years of research on an endangered African herbivore, the giraffe, based on individual spot pattern recognition, and profile an example of a long-term photographic mark–recapture study of Masai giraffes in Tanzania. We illustrate how individual-based data can be used to examine the fitness consequences (variation in survival and reproduction) of extrinsic environmental factors or intrinsic traits in an evolutionary ecology framework. These data also allow the study of social structure, space use, life histories, and health. The giraffe offers an excellent opportunity to study dynamics of an ungulate species with a highly fission–fusion social system using spot pattern recognition.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology