Giraffe Anatomy

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The giraffe is the tallest of all the animal kingdom, growing up to 18 feet in height. Giraffes are megaherbivores – a group that includes elephants and hippos – and they’ve evolved to survive their dangerous habitat of prowling big cats and competing herbivores.

The giraffe has a relatively narrow body, long legs, spotted coat, prehensile tongue, sophisticated organs and a massive long stretch of neck. How do these features give the giraffe an advantage in its natural environment?

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Well, the ability to reach more food is likely the major factor in the evolution of the giraffe’s long neck. Remarkably, giraffes have seven vertebrae in their necks – the same as humans – and each bone can measure up to ten inches in length. A greater reach enables a giraffe to enjoy more leaves per mouthful by eating above the heads of competing animals. They’re also able to stretch down to low bushes and deep inside trees for a meal, consuming up to 140 pounds of vegetation in a single day. And because of their diet of lush foliage, giraffes only need a drink of water every few days.

But it’s not just a long neck that enables the giraffe to fill its multi-compartment belly. This species has another highly advanced piece of anatomy – an exceptionally long prehensile tongue. Growing to 21 inches in length, a giraffe’s tongue can easily strip away leaves from thorny branches.

Watch Inside Nature’s Giants: Giraffe Tuesday, December 28 at 12 and 5 PM et/pt on Nat Geo Wild.

Photo Credits: Jodi Kendall


  1. deminmartin9
    December 30, 2010, 9:13 am

    The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all land-living animal species, and the largest ruminant.

  2. jkrcvt
    May 25, 2011, 2:46 pm

    Are these shows going to be repeated or available on DVD?