Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Giraffe

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Giraffidae
Genus : Giraffa 
Species : camelopardalis

Height : Males 18ft (5.5m); Females 13-15ft (4-4.5m)
Weight : Males 3,000lbs (1,360kg); Females 1,500lbs (680kg)

IUCN Status : Least Concern for the species overall, but the Niger and Rothschild's subspecies are listed as Endangered

Giraffes are pretty awesome and unique animals. So unique in fact, that there are only two living species in their entire family- the Okapis and the Giraffes themselves. There are presently nine recognized subspecies of Giraffe, each with its own distribution and coat pattern. But interestingly, new research might demonstrate that some of these subspecies are fragmented enough to be considered their own species.

Giraffes have some big distinctions within the animal kingdom. They are the tallest of all land animals, and they also win the prize for the longest tail, which can reach up to 8ft (2.4m) in length! They also have feet that measure over 12in (30.5cm) in diameter.

Another fun fact in Giraffe anatomy regards their necks. Though their necks are super long, they have the exact same number of vertebrae in them that humans do- just seven! Giraffes also have incredibly long tongues that can grow up to 18in (48cm). These tongues allow them to feed off the thorny Acacia trees that deter many other species.

The tallness of the Giraffes also plays into their reproduction. You see, they don't give birth laying down. Young Giraffes, called calves, fall over 6ft (1.8m) to the ground when they are born. They are then walking around within an hour. Calves remain with their mothers for up to six months, and grow very quickly. Giraffes are social animals, but their herds are very loose; individuals come and go over time. Adults Giraffes don't have a whole lot of predators, but calves are preyed upon by several species, including Lions, Leopards, and Hyenas.

(Images of Giraffes at the Milwaukee County and Lincoln park Zoos)

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