It’s always very interesting to see how species adapt in specific ways in order to l survive through natural selection. This made me wonder how many weird looking animals are there on our planet and a great majority has unique attributes that is specific to continue to exist in their environment.
Let me focus on giraffes specifically because I always thought that it’s amazing that they have the same amount of vertebrae as us, humans, but their neck is often 5-6 feet or even longer. Interestingly enough though, Darwin at first didn’t focus on the neck but rather their tail, and how it was a very effective fly swatting mechanism. Later on tho he brought it up as an example for natural selection, that by having a longer neck more food will be available, reaching the ground, mid-level bushes and the canopy as well.
This however is not the only hypothesis today, and we still don’t quite understand why they have such long necks, evolving from short-necked okapi type animals 14 millions years ago. One argument is, that since the long neck needs way more support it dramatically increased the giraffe’s weight and by that, the amount of food they need to consume increased, so it’s not necessarily an advantage to reach more the higher canopies at this cost. (Male giraffes average 3500 pounds) Also, if it really is about competition for food, why don’t under animals have such a huge neck.
Another recent idea by Robert Simmons and Lue Scheepers is that this is sexual selection. Because male giraffes batter each other at the time of mating so the females would pick them, evidently, a stronger longer neck would be an advantage. Therefore it’s possible that over time this is how the short-neck giraffes were eliminated by their taller, stronger companions simply because they were more attractive to females and therefore they got the chance to pass on their DNA.
The fact that we still don’t have concrete proof for this is exciting and shows how much more evolution can teach us.