The giraffe is one of the iconic and spectacular land mammals of the African plains, but how much do we know about them? To find out more, try digesting my overly-long list of giraffe facts:

1. The giraffe is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the worlds largest ruminant. Fully grown giraffes stand 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall, with males taller than females. The average weight is 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) for an adult male and 830 kg (1,800 lb) for an adult female

2. The giraffes specific name - Giraffa camelopardalis refers to its camel-like face and the patches of color on its fur, which bear a vague resemblance to a leopard's spots.

3. The giraffe is noted for its extremely long neck and legs, as well as its horn-like ossicones.

4. The giraffes closest living relative is the okapi.

5. There are nine subspecies of giraffe which are distinguished by their coat patterns.

6. The giraffe's scattered range extends from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands.

7. The primary food source for giraffes are acacia leaves, which they can browse at heights that most other herbivores cannot reach.

8. Giraffes are preyed on by lions, and calves are also targeted by leopards, spotted hyenas and wild dogs.

9. Adult giraffes do not have strong social bonds, though they do gather in loose aggregations if they happen to be moving in the same general direction.

10. Males establish social hierarchies through "necking", which are combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon. Dominant males gain mating access to females, who bear the sole responsibility for raising the young.

11. The giraffe family was once much more extensive, with over 10 fossil genera described. Giraffids first arose 8 million years ago (mya) in south-central Europe during the Miocene epoch.

12. The giraffe was one of the many species first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. He gave it the binomial name Cervus camelopardalis. Morten Thrane BrĂ¼nnich classified the genus Giraffa in 1772.

13. Giraffe subspecies are distinguished by their coat patterns.

14. Despite its long neck and legs, the giraffe's body is relatively short. Located at both sides of the head, the giraffe's large, bulging eyes give it good all-round vision from its great height.

15. Giraffes see in colour and their senses of hearing and smell are also sharp.

16. Giraffes can close its muscular nostrils to protect against sandstorms and ants.

17. The giraffe's prehensile tongue is about 50 cm (20 in) long. It is purplish-black in colour, perhaps to protect against sunburn, and is useful for grasping foliage as well as for grooming and cleaning the animal's nose.

18. The upper lip of the giraffe is also prehensile and useful when foraging. The lips, tongue and inside of the mouth are covered in papillae to protect against thorns.

19. The coat has dark blotches or patches (which can be orange, chestnut, brown or nearly black on colour) separated by light hair (usually white or cream in colour). Each individual giraffe has a unique coat pattern. The coat pattern serves as camouflage, allowing it to blend in the light and shade patterns of savannah woodlands. The skin underneath the dark areas may serve as windows for thermoregulation, being sites for complex blood vessel systems and large sweat glands.

20. The skin of a giraffe is mostly gray. It is also thick and allows them to run through thorn bush without being punctured. Their fur may serve as a chemical defence, as it is full of parasite repellents that give the animal a characteristic scent. There are at least eleven main aromatic chemicals in the fur, although indole and 3-methylindole are responsible for most of the smell. Because the males have a stronger odour than the females, it is suspected that it also has a sexual function.

21. Along the animal's neck is a mane made of short, erect hairs.

22. The giraffes 1 m (3.3 ft) tail ends in a long, dark tuft of hair and is used as a defense against insects.

23. A giraffe's skull is lightened by multiple sinuses. However, as male giraffes age, their skulls become heavier and more club-like, helping them become more dominant in combat.

24. The front legs of a giraffe are slightly longer than its hind legs.

25. A giraffe has only two gaits: walking and galloping. Walking is done by moving the legs on one side of the body at the same time, then doing the same on the other side. When galloping, the hind legs move around the front legs before the latter move forward, and the tail will curl up. The animal relies on the forward and backward motions of its head and neck to maintain balance and the counter momentum while galloping.

26. The giraffe can reach a sprint speed of up to 60 km/h (37 mph), and can sustain 50 km/h (31 mph) for several kilometres.

27. A giraffe rests by lying with its body on top of its folded legs. In order to lie down, the animal kneels on its front legs and then lowers the rest of its body. To get back up, it first gets on its knees and spreads its hind legs to raise its hindquarters. It then straightens its front legs.

28. The giraffe sleeps intermittently around 4.6 hours per day, mostly at night. It usually sleeps lying down, however, standing sleeps have been recorded, particularly in older individuals. Intermittent short "deep sleep" phases while lying are characterized by the giraffe bending its neck backwards and resting its head on the hip or thigh, a position believed to indicate paradoxical sleep.

29. If the giraffe wants to bend down to drink, it either spreads its front legs or bends its knees.

30. Giraffes would probably not be competent swimmers as their long legs would be highly cumbersome in the water, although they could possibly float. When swimming, the thorax would be weighed down by the front legs, making it difficult for the animal to move its neck and legs in harmony or keep its head above the surface.

31. The circulatory system of the giraffe has several adaptations for its great height. Its heart, which can weigh more than 25 lb (11 kg) and measures about 2 ft (61 cm) long, must generate approximately double the blood pressure required for a human to maintain blood flow to the brain.

32. Giraffes have usually high heart rates for their size, at 150 beats per minute.

33. Giraffes have oesophageal muscles that are unusually strong to allow regurgitation of food from the stomach up the neck and into the mouth for rumination. They have four chambered stomachs, as in all ruminants, and the first chamber has adapted to their specialized diet.

34. Female giraffes give birth standing up. Their young endure a rather rude welcome into the world by falling more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) to the ground at birth. These infants can stand in half an hour and run with their mothers an incredible ten hours after birth.

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