It’s safe to say Giraffes are some of the most astonishing creatures on the planet, these African giants are the tallest land mammal on the planet, some towering up to an incredible 18 feet! Even if you stacked three average males (at 5ft 10 inches tall) on top of each other, they would still be shorter than some of the taller male Giraffes!
These fascinating mammals have evolved over 15 million years, from antelope-like animals. Gradually natural selection favoured antelope with longer necks as they were more likely to reach nutritious vegetation higher up, during times of greater competition between species.
The Giraffe species we know today turned up around 1 million years ago. You may look at a Giraffe’s neck and think what an amazing evolutionary adaptation it is, you’d be right, but that’s not the only thing that’s fascinating about them!
1. NASA drew inspiration from baby Giraffes
Weightlessness has always been a problem in outer space, humans are not very well adapted to the lack of gravity and this plays havoc with Astronauts circulatory system. When astronauts have a lengthy stay in space, their leg veins get weaker, due to the fact that the circulatory system of the legs don’t have to work as hard to pump the blood back up the body. This means astronauts veins get lazy and weak, causing quite a few problems when they return back to Earth!
NASA circumvented this problem by studying baby giraffes, baby giraffes learn how to stand immediately after being born, due to their rapidly inflating leg veins! NASA took this incredible natural adaptation and applied it to create the Lower Body Negative Pressure Process. This device seals around the astronauts waist and applies vacuum pressure, rapidly expanding the leg veins and making blood rush into the legs and pelvic area. When this pressure is applied regularly, the astronaut’s leg veins remain as strong as they would on Earth!
2. No need for sun cream!
Due to the fact Giraffes tongues are out so frequently, grazing on vegetation, they have evolved a blueish/black colour, ensuring they don’t burn under the African sun!
3. Or hands
Giraffes tongues are up to 20 inches long, it is also prehensile meaning it can grasp things like vegetation!
4. Weird mouths
You’d think the strangeness would end with their tongue, you’d be wrong. The inside of a Giraffes mouth is covered with hard, finger-like papillae, protecting the Giraffe from thorny foliage.
5. Spot the difference
Just like human fingerprints no two Giraffe’s have the same spot pattern.
6. Birthing with a bump
Giraffes spend most of their lives standing up, they even give birth standing up, with calves falling up to 6 feet to the floor. Ouch!
7. Light sleepers
Giraffes don’t need much sleep to function, typically only getting between 20 minutes and 2 hours of sleep a day!
8. Catch me if you can
Giraffes can run at speeds of up to 35mph over short distances!
9. The trade off
Having a long neck can have its advantages, but it can also be disadvantageous as well! Giraffe’s necks are too short to reach the ground, resulting in them having to awkwardly spread their legs or kneel to reach the ground for water, this can leave them vulnerable to predators.
There you have it, possibly the most fascinating animal on the planet! But wait, before you go, we need your help! As part of #WorldGiraffeDay, Yorkshire Wildlife Park and Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation are fundraising for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, a charity committed to the conservation of Giraffes throughout Africa, please click here to donate! Thank you!
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