Nature

How the giraffe’s long neck has evolved? The evolution behind this long neck.

Well, we generally see the tallest animal Giraffe with a 2-3m long neck, right? But did you think about how this have had happened? How the giraffe got this long neck? Well, scientists and researchers are trying to find an answer for so long after finding old fossils related to giraffes. 

How the giraffe’s long neck has evolved
How the giraffe’s long neck has evolved

Let’s study the past life of giraffes, and how they have evolved and got these long necks, it will be interesting to study evolution. The great scientist who gave many theories about evolution, Charles Robert Darwin, said that they are prime examples of natural selection, and how animals have adapted to the environment and evolved. His theory suggests that Giraffe’s long neck evolution has evolved by finding the food they could reach food high up in trees, which gave them an advantage over other animals which have shorted necks.

Now present-day researchers say that they have found a fossil relative of the Giraffe. In 1996, the fossil was found in China’s north-western Junggar Basin and since then many fossils of the same have been discovered. At the initial stage, the researchers found unusual skulls and vertebrae. In the fossils, scientists have found thick craniums with disk-like headgear, thick cervical vertebrae, and complex head and neck joints have ever seen.

Researchers just found that the unusual fossil belongs to the oddball giraffoid, but many believed the giraffe’s long necks evolved to allow them to reach their tall foliage meals. Giraffes’ long necks are also used to fight for females during courtship and mating rituals which means it is the process by which an individual selects and fights for his or her partner to reproduce with. They also compared the structure of their horns with sheep, cattle, and deer, and they found that giraffes have larger variations in horn formation. Their analysis said that giraffes have longer variations in horn formation. 

The evolution of oddball Giraffe

The scientist Charles Robert Darwin tried to understand why the giraffe has a long neck, the tallest land mammal evolved such a long neck. As they study the giraffe’s behavior, they realized the long neck serves another purpose. 

The muscled necks, which can be 6.5 to 9.8 feet long, can be used to smash their heavy skulls, armed with skin-covered bony protrusions called ossicones. Meanwhile, the longer the neck, the greater the chance of inflicting serious damage. The male giraffe with the longest neck is at the top of the social hierarchy, and its need to compete with females is the driving force behind why its neck evolved to be so long.

According to a recent study, one professor said that Both living giraffes and Discokeryx Xie Zhi belong to the Giraffoidea, a superfamily. Although their skull and neck morphologies are different, both are associated with male courtship struggles and both have evolved in an extreme direction.

During the Miocene period which was 17 million years ago, Earth was covered in lush green vegetation and warmth enough. Within the giraffoid’s region, the Xinjiang area had a drier climate with an unhabitable habitat that caused species to have more environmental pressure to survive. This climate caused extreme fights over female giraffoids. 

Environmental pressure

However, to determine Discokeryx xiezhi’s environment, the research team and scientists looked at its tooth enamel. And they found that the giraffoid lived in open grasslands having trees, and shrubs and might have migrated or moved to another place based on the seasons. During the period of Miocene 17 million years ago, the earth was warm enough and it was covered with full of trees.

Also, the Xinjiang region, which was home to the giraffoid, was dry due to the rise of the Tibetan Plateau in the south, which blocked the movement of water vapor. The drier climate created a more incapable habitat, which may have created environmental pressures on Discokeryx xiezhi’s ability to survive and hence the intense fighting over females. When early giraffes began to appear about 7 million years ago, they started to experience a similar environment as the East African Plateau moved from forest to open grasslands.

These giraffe ancestors had to adapt and may have developed their neck-fighting style, which is called necking. As a result, hence the giraffe’s neck started growing rapidly and evolved over a period of 2 million years, and evolved as the long-necked animal, the tallest one that we know today as a giraffe.

The evolution of oddball Giraffe
The evolution of oddball Giraffe

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