OpenLab Finalist: Giraffes – Necks for food, or necks for sex?
The neck of a giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is a marvelous thing. Comprised of only seven vertebrae* – no more than in your neck – the towering feat of natural engineering is at once stunning and ridiculous. How could such a structure have evolved? This question is not just a throw-away. For the past century and a half, naturalists have been vexed by the long neck of the giraffe.
*[This would not be a good science essay if I didn’t have to throw in some kind of caveat before I got out of the first paragraph. There is an ongoing anatomical debate about whether giraffes have only seven neck vertebrae or eight, the extra one being a modified part of the back.