From Lamarck to the present day, through Darwin's theories, the evolution of the neck of giraffes has been at the center of all investigations. ¿Why an animal with such an exaggeratedly large neck? ¿What is your function?
Not only this characteristic defines giraffes, they are one of the largest animals that currently live on Earth and the heaviest. In this AnimalWised article we will talk about giraffes, how tall is your neck, how much a giraffe weighs and other curiosities that you may be interested in discovering.You may also be interested in: Types of giraffes Index
- The vertebral column in mammals
- Giraffe physical characteristics
- How many vertebrae does the neck of a giraffe have?
- What is the giraffe's neck good for?
The vertebral column in mammals
The vertebral column is the hallmark that defines a large group of animals, the vertebrates. Each species has a single spine, designed for the specific needs of that group of animals.
Normally the spine extends from the base of the skull to the pelvic girdle and sometimes continues to form the queue. It is made up of bone tissue, structured in discs or vertebrae that overlap each other. The number of vertebrae and their shape varies according to the species to which it corresponds.
Generally, in a spinal column there are five groups of vertebrae:
- Cervical: correspond to the vertebrae located in the neck. The first of all, the one that joins the skull, is called "atlas " and the second, "axis ".
- Thoracic: they go from the base of the neck to the end of the thorax, where there are no longer ribs.
- Lumbar: are the vertebrae of the lower back area.
- Sacras: vertebrae found in the hip.
- Coccygeal: final vertebrae of vertebrate animals with tail.
Giraffe physical characteristics
The giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, is a ungulate belonging to the order Artiodactyla, having two toes on each hoof. It shares certain characteristics with deer and cattle, for example, its stomach has four chambers, it is a ruminant animal and it has no incisors or canines on the upper jaw. It also has characteristics that distinguish them from these animals: their horns are covered with fur and their lower canines have two lobes.
They are animals very big and heavy. They can reach almost 6 meters in height and an adult giraffe can reach the ton and a half weight.
Although we always think of the giraffe's long neck, the truth is that it is also, the animal with the longest legs. The bones of the fingers and feet are very long. The ulna and radius on the front legs or the tibia and fibula on the back legs are usually fused and are long as well. But the bones that are really elongated in this species are the bones that correspond to the feet and hands, that is, the tarsi, metatarsals, carpus and metacarpus. Giraffes, like other ungulates, they tiptoe.
How many vertebrae does a giraffe's neck have?
The neck of the giraffes is stretched out, as are the legs. They do not have an exorbitant number of vertebrae, what happens is that these vertebrae are exaggeratedly elongated.
Like all mammals except the sloth and manatee, giraffes have seven vertebrae in the neck or cervical vertebrae. A vertebra of an adult male giraffe can measure up to 30 centimeters in length, so its neck, in total, can reach 2 meters.
The sixth vertebra of the neck of the ungulates has a different shape than the rest, but in the giraffe it is very similar to the third, fourth and fifth. The last cervical vertebra, the seventh, also resembles the rest, while in other ungulates, this last vertebra has become the first thoracic vertebra, that is, it has a pair of ribs.Image: phys.org
What is the giraffe's neck good for?
Since Lamarck and his theory of the evolution of species, prior to Darwin's theory, the usefulness of the giraffe's neck has been much discussed..
Early studies suggest that the length of your neck served to reach the highest branches of the acacias, The tree that giraffes feed on, so individuals with longer necks had more food at their disposal. This theory was later discarded.
What observation has taught us about these animals is that giraffes use their necks to defend against other animals. They also use it during courtship, when male giraffes fight each other by hitting their necks and horns.