Balancing a Long Neck PDF Print E-mail
The neck of giraffes is longer than in any other mammal, yet the number of vertebras seems the same: seven, and not one more. This was long thought to be the case, but this is not true. Giraffes do have one neck vertebra extra, but the last neck vertebra has been moved backward into the region of the thorax, and supports a rib, just as normal thoracic vertebras do. In this way, it is as if a giraffe still has just 7 neck vertebras. The result of this backward shift is that, seen from a distance in side-view, the giraffe seems to bear its neck further back on its torso and to have its fore-legs more in front. The advantage of this shifted neck is a greater balance of this huge and heavy pillar on a further gracile and slender body. To stabilize this heavy and mobile neck even more, the body of modern giraffes is shortened, and the fore-legs are slightly longer than the hind-legs.
 
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