Traditionally, giraffes were thought to be one species, Giraffa camelopardalis, with nine subspecies. However, researchers have proposed dividing them into up to eight extant species due to new research into their mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, as well as morphological measurements. Seven other extinct species of Giraffa are known from the fossil record. Its closest extant relative is the okapi.
The giraffe's chief distinguishing characteristics are its extremely long neck and legs, its horn-like ossicones (which are formed from ossified cartilage, covered in skin and fused to the skull at the parietal bones), and its spotted coat patterns. It possesses a black prehensile tongue that is about 18 inches (45 centimeters) long, and which can grasp foliage and delicately pick off leaves of tall trees and shrubs.
Although giraffes only need a drink of water every few days (with the rest of their water coming from leaves), their neck is too short to reach the ground, so they have to spread their legs and bend down in an awkward position that makes them vulnerable to predators.
Their 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 savannahs and woodlands, and their main food source are leaves, fruits, and flowers of woody plants, primarily acacia species, which they browse at heights most other herbivores cannot reach.
Giraffes live in herds of related females and their offspring or bachelor herds of unrelated adult males, but are gregarious and may gather in large aggregations. Males establish social hierarchies through "necking", combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon. Dominant males gain mating access to females, which bear sole responsibility for rearing the young.
Giraffes in mainstream media/culture
- Bridget (Disney Feature Animation's The Wild)
- Geoffrey and family (Toys "R" Us)
- Georgina (Millimages' 64 Zoo Lane)
- Melman (DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar)
- Gerald Giraffe and family (Hasbro Entertainment's Peppa Pig)
Giraffes and furry
Known giraffes in furry fandom culture
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