Pronghorns Are More Closely Related to Giraffes Than to Antelope

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Though they’re colloquially called the “American antelope,” pronghorns aren’t related to antelope at all. Scientific American reports that the pronghorn, which is indigenous to North America, is actually more closely related to the giraffe.

For years, scientists assumed pronghorns were related either to antelope or deer—like the pronghorn, antelope and deer have hoofs and horns, after all. But unlike antelope, pronghorns shed their horns each year. And unlike deer, their horns are covered in a tough sheath.

After genetic testing and molecular studies, scientists have determined that the pronghorn actually belongs to the Giraffoidea group, which includes the okapi and, of course, the giraffe. Which means, though they share some characteristics with both deer and antelope, pronghorns evolved independently from both groups. So the next time you visit Yellowstone National Park and watch herds of pronghorns grazing, keep in mind that despite appearances, the animal you’re looking at is more giraffe than antelope.

[h/t Scientific American]