Form and Function

Giraffes are known as the tallest mammal on the planet, ranging from 14 to 17 feet tall and usually weigh anywhere from 1800 to 2600 pounds. However this does not make them the largest animal on the planet; for more information on this check out the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus).  Generally male giraffes are quite a bit larger than females. Data shows that females are ⅔ to ½ the body mass of most males. Being this large requires certain body features in order to survive in their African environment. The most distinguishable feature of these animals are their elongated necks, which they use to reach leaves off of the trees. Their necks can be as tall as what we would consider a very tall man, around 6ft. 7 in. Giraffe’s also have hooves around 30 centimeters in diameter. These massive hooves allow the animal to kick predators or outrun others. The Rhodesian giraffe can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour for sustained periods of time with help of their significantly long lets. While running, they propel both front feet forward and then both back feet as opposed to when their walking; they walk like a camel, both left feet at the same time and then both right feet (Carter et al., 2013).
    These animals are characterized by their decorative spots all along their body and legs. Their pattern is comprised of large, sienna brown spots, which darken as the animal ages, on a cream background. The spots are described as ‘ragged leaf-shaped’. As the animal ages the spots darken in a radial fashion outward from the center of the spot turning a coal black color (Berry et al., 2012).
     Rhodesian giraffes also have horn-like structures (ossicones) and a tail. The ossicones can be up to 13.3centimeters in length, whereas the tail can be 80-100 centimeters long. At the end of their tail they have along tuft of fur like the thick, short, stiff mane they have running along the top of their necks.
    One of the most interesting adaptations the giraffe has is its ability to  pump blood  throughout its entire body, most importantly through their long necks to their brains. The giraffe does this by utilizing an enlarged heart. The giraffes heart can be up to 22 pounds! Because of this enlarged heart the giraffe has twice the blood pressure of most other large mammals. Because of this, the giraffe also uses a pressure regulating system so they are able to lower their heads without blood rushing to their heads (Weird Facts).
    Other adaptations for defense include incredible vision and vocal chords for communication. Some of the noises the species makes include snorting, roaring bellows, loud coughs, moaning, snoring, hissing, and flutelike sounds.


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