Anatomy of a Giraffe
Audrey Stevenson Ref. Mammal Anatomy 2010 Marshall Cavendish Corporation The Giraffe is perhaps one of the most iconic species of Africa and to the mysteries and intrigue that lie within the confines of evolution. The purpose of this paper is to explain how this wonderful, iconic organism has evolved physiologically to be suited to its’ environment. In this paper we will be discussing the elements that best describe its’ evolutionary progress. The areas we will be covering include the Skeletal System, the Digestive and Excretory System, and small parts of the Circulatory System. But first we will start with the evolution of the Giraffe, what family it belongs to, what some of its
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The skeletal system of the giraffe is much like those in other mammals. It should be noted that the number vertebrae present in the giraffe is still only seven, which is the same amount for most other mammals on Earth. The obvious difference however is the size of the bones themselves which are longer than 11 inches. They connect to each other through a ball-and-socket system which gives them a greater amount of flexibility which is useful to curving their necks around trees to feed on leaves as well as bending down to drink water. The ends of these giant vertebrae are connected by ligament layers that give them a great amount of flexibility. This is useful to them when fighting rivals for dominance and domain as they fight with their necks. The adaptation and formation of the lengthy vertebrae to evolve and grow to reach higher trees and an alternate food source to grass in the plains of Africa are just one aspect in the evolution of the giraffe from ordinary ungulates. The digestive and excretory system of the giraffe again is much like those found in many of its herbivore, grazing relatives in the ungulate family, with a few major differences. Like other grazers, the giraffe has four stomachs which aid in the digestion and maximizing the nutrition gained from eating vegetation, in which ordinary mammals with only one stomach simply cannot achieve.