The Giraffe (Giraffa)
Giraffa is a genus that was once believed to have only one species. However, evidence suggests there are 4 species of giraffe, as well as a variety of subspecies. Let's see what else we can learn about this long-necked mammal.
Physical Description and Behavior
Giraffes are large mammals with long necks and legs. They have cream-colored fur with brown spots all over them which helps them to blend into their environment. This pattern may shift depending on the species/subspecies. Their fur also emits a variety of scents that serve as a chemical defense against parasites.
They are about 4.3–5.7 m (14.1–18.7 ft) tall on average, with males weighing over 1,200 kg (~2600 pounds) and females weighing just under a ton (828 kg). On their heads are two horn-like nubs called ossicones, which are made from cartilage and are found on both sexes.
Fun Fact: Their long necks used to be believed to be the result of behavioral traits like stretching causing those traits to be passed onto their young. However, it is now believed that their necks evolved due to natural selection. This would allow giraffes with naturally longer necks to reach higher leaves on trees and giraffes that could not reach that high would not reproduce as frequently so the genes for longer necks increased in the population.
Also, just to bust a myth, giraffes are able to lower their heads and drink from lakes without the blood rushing to their heads. Their necks still hold muscles and veins, which prevent this from happening. So, no. Giraffes don't pass out when drinking from water holes.
Giraffes are herbivores, they consume shrubs, grass, and fruit. However, they prefer to consume the twigs of various trees such as the trees in the genera Commiphora and Terminalia as well as the subfamily Acacieae. This provides a good amount of calcium, protein, and other nutrients that the giraffe needs to grow and develop.
Habitat and Location
Giraffes can be found in many parts of Africa, usually in open woodlands and savannas. There seem to be over 68,000 individuals left, but it seems to be declining just about everywhere on the continent.
They are considered to be Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List, mainly due to their declining population. Most species and subspecies are either vulnerable, near threatened, or endangered.
Learn more about this majestic mammal by checking out the video below: