The record holder for the world’s tallest living animal will probably come as no surprise as giraffes are among the most iconic species that roam the savanna of Sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s hard not to be in awe at the sight of a giraffe as they tower above everything around them. But did you know that despite their impressive height, they have the same number of vertebrae in their neck as humans? Read on to find out more about these impressive animals.
The tallest living animal
It goes without saying that giraffes are probably most famous for their extra-long neck. However, their equally long legs help them run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
A fully grown adult giraffe stands on average between 4.3-5.7 metres tall, with males being around one metre taller than the females. Despite their extra-long necks, giraffes actually have just seven neck vertebrae, the same as most other mammals. However, each of those vertebrae dwarfs that of most other animals, measuring an impressive 25cm in length.
Giraffes were once widely distributed across Sub-Saharan Africa. However, their populations are becoming increasingly smaller and more fragmented due to habitat loss and degradation, human population growth, poaching, disease, war and civil unrest.
Why the long neck?
The giraffe’s impressive height certainly has its uses when it comes to feeding time. Their long necks allow them to reach those tasty leaves from the tops of trees, out of reach for other animals. It also gives them a good vantage point when keeping an eye out for approaching predators.
Male giraffes, known as ‘bulls’, will also use their long necks to establish dominance. Rivals will clash their heads and necks together in a fight for dominance, an activity called ‘necking’. Although these fights can sometimes be brutal, they are rarely fatal.
One species or four?
Giraffes have long been considered just one species with many different subspecies. However, a study published in 2016 suggests that giraffes might actually be split into four different species. The tallest of these is the Masai giraffe, and in fact, the tallest giraffe ever recorded was a male Masai named George, who used to live at Chester Zoo and stood at an impressive 5.8 metres tall.
The drinking problem
Being the world’s tallest living animal isn’t everything. Their large size presents a problem when they seek refreshment at the nearby watering hole. To reach the water, they have to splay their legs and bend down in quite an awkward way, making them vulnerable to predators. Thankfully giraffes only need to drink once every few days as they get most of the water they need from the plants that they eat.
Check the full video on YouTube to learn all about giraffes