Giraffes (Giraffidae Giraffa camelopardalis) are known to be the tallest animal in the world, with distinct long necks and long grasping tongues that can extend up to 18 inches to munch on the inner leaves of trees. However, did you know that early age giraffes were more deer life with shorter necks? Then how did the Giraffe species end up with long necks?
It is a common belief that giraffes had adapted longer necks as part of a survival technique to reach out to the greater heights for food. However scientific research in the 1990s show that when food was scarce giraffes preferred feeding in lower bushes than in tall trees.Thus dispproving the common belief.
There are other speculations that the giraffes have long necks in order to help them identify predators from afar. However, biologists are not convinced by this being the solitary theory behind the evolution of giraffes citing that if seeing far distances was such a huge advantage then other animals would have followed the giraffe’s evolution.
There was a more concrete evidence and reasoning behind this evolution: Necking.
” Giraffes fight over females by swinging their necks and heads like a medieval ball and chain. The longer and heavier the neck, the more momentum behind the often bone-shattering head slams.”
Simmons and Scheepers found that the longer and more massive a giraffe male’s neck was, the more likely he was to win the mating contest and thus, giving him more chance of mating and this led to the “longer” neck genes being passed down more frequently to the future generations. This mating competition is believed to have further motivated the evolution of the giraffe’s neck as the longer-necked animals were more successful at reproducing.
To conclude, here’s a video of this necking action caught on tape:
“Why do Giraffes have such long necks?” By Kathy Wollard. Url:http://www.how-come.net/giraffeneck.html (Accessed on 3rd April 2010)
“Why do Giraffes have such long necks?” By Vlad Tarko. Sci-Tech News, 30 May 2006. Url:http://news.softpedia.com/news/Why-Do-Giraffes-Have-Such-Long-Necks-41441.shtml (Accessed on 3rd April 2010)
“Winning by a Neck: Sexual Selection in the Evolution of Giraffe” by Robert E. Simmons and Lue Scheeper, The American Naturalist, Vol. 148, No. 5 (Nov., 1996), pp. 771-786 (Accessed on 6th April 2010)
” Nature| Tall Blondes | “Giraffe ‘Necking’ ” by PBS. Url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXcGvQqWB-0 (Accessed on 7th April 2010)
“Masai Giraffe in Necking Dominance Fight” by WildImages, 17th April 2008. Url: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wild_images/2420442547/ (Accessed on 7th April 2010)