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Why do giraffes have long necks? Scientists have come up with a fascinating new theory

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giraffe
Scientists have found out why giraffes have long necks. Source: Pixabay

Scientists believe that it is the increased nutritional needs of females that led to the evolution of long necks in giraffes. The new study is based on Charles Darwin's 19th-century theory of evolution.

Millions of years ago, giraffes with the longest necks could reach more leaves on trees and survive in competition - before the English naturalist argued that the long neck trait was passed on in their genes. Now, scientists in the United States are developing Darwin's findings in a new theory, emphasizing that females have become the driving force behind the evolution of this trait. The results of the study were published in the journal Mammalian Biology.

Experts have found that female giraffes have proportionally longer necks than males. The reason for this is probably the high nutritional needs during pregnancy and lactation. Interestingly, female giraffes have a more sloping body shape, while males are more upright.

The study was led by Douglas Cavener, a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University. According to him, these animals eat the leaves of only a few species of trees, and their longer necks allow them to reach deeper into the trees to get the leaves. When females reach four to five years of age, they are pregnant for a long time and have to feed their young. The authors of the study believe that it is the increased nutritional needs of females that led to the evolution of long necks in giraffes.

"Giraffes are picky eaters," he said.

giraffe body

For the study, the researchers collected thousands of photos of Maasai giraffes (Giraffa tippelskirchi) living in captivity and in the wild. This species is native to East Africa.

The body of a giraffe

They found that in both captive and wild adult giraffes, females have a proportionally longer neck than males - that is, relative to the animal's entire height. Females also have a proportionally longer "trunk" (the main part of the body that does not include the legs, neck, and head). Adult males have longer forelegs (effective for climbing on a female during mating) and a wider neck that can withstand blows from rival males during fights.

"Later, the neck mass increased even more as a result of competition between males and sexual selection," the study says.

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