Africa’s Gallivanting Giraffe
Probably one of the world’s most memorable mammals, and my wife’s favorite one too, is the cloud touching Giraffe. Also known as,”Giraffa camelopardalis” (by the few people who might actually call it that), the giraffe is the tallest animal that walks the plains of Africa or even the earth in general. With many tricks up their hooves, it will become abundantly clear why this animal is truly one of a kind.
These 6 meter tall behemoths have evolved very specialized traits that allowed them to adapt and survive in some of Africa’s most unforgiving climates. One of the most obvious features of a giraffe is its spots which serve as camouflage in the vast plains although, some may debate that its sheer size contradicts its ability to blend in with anything but the sky. While the camouflage is not as effective as other animals it also becomes unnecessary as the giraffe matures and less predators are able to eat them.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this animal is its tongue. Typically, tongues are just slimy, gross, wet and uninteresting to most people and giraffe tongues are the same in every way except they are actually extremely interesting! Giraffes have a very serious eating problem which makes it so they have to eat for the better part of 20 HOURS EACH DAY! With their height and the fact that they are herbivores, these animals have access to the parts of trees that most animals cannot reach which helps to subdue their appetite. The only issue is that after so many years of animals picking on these poor trees, the trees themselves have evolved to try to fend off bullies such as the giraffe. By developing toxins and large thorns, many of the trees have become immune to disruption by most animals… except the giraffe. While the trees evolved to withstand being eaten by other animals, the giraffe’s mouth and tongue became more and more specialized at gorging on every last leaf.
Giraffe drool, which is even more slimy than typical drool, is home to anti-venom which neutralizes the effect given off by trees allowing giraffes to go on about their day undisturbed. The only threat able to keep a giraffe away from some luscious leaves nowadays are the ant residents that find themselves at home inside of many African trees.
Another interesting fact is that I am not the only person in this world interested in giraffes. No, seriously. It turns out that an american company by the name of NASA (Ever hear of them?) actually conducted a large amount of research on giraffes because of their body’s ability to defy gravity. Without getting too word happy, because of the height of giraffes they were expected to be vulnerable to high blood pressure changes within their heads when lowering to take a sip of water. It turns out that the physiology of giraffes have evolved to stop back flow of blood which allows the animal to drink without fainting into its water bowl each time it bends down. NASA, after researching quite a bit, had tried to integrate the giraffes blood vessels into a space suit.
Space Giraffes… how cool is that?
Thanks for sticking your necks in, stay connected to Strange Adaptions for more fun, crazy, weird and wild animal evolutions!
[cover photo credit: Rob Bixby, via Flickr.]