Evolution in the News - November 2017
by Do-While Jones

The Giraffe Gaffe

Every time they tell the giraffe myth, it gets funnier.

You know how evolutionists say the giraffe got its long neck, don’t you? No, you don’t. You know how evolutionists previously said how the giraffe got its long neck; but they don’t say that any more.

How did the giraffe get its long neck? The obvious answer — and some of you are probably shouting it at the page or screen right now — is that it evolved as a benefit that allowed the animals to reach and eat higher leaves. Perhaps. Probably, even. That was certainly Charles Darwin’s explanation. But it’s not certain, and other possible origins for one of the animal kingdom’s most distinctive features are still a topic of debate among zoologists and evolutionary biologists alike.

That idea stood largely unchallenged until, in a letter to this journal in 1949, Chapman Pincher took issue and pointed out that the legs of a giraffe are also unusually long (all the better for a swift escape from predators) (C. Pincher Nature 164, 29–30; 1949). The long neck, he said, must therefore have evolved as a way for the animal to be able to reach past its own legs when it leans to reach the ground to take a drink of water. (Never very popular, Pincher’s suggestion lasted only as long as it took scientists to find and examine fossil ancestors of the giraffe, and point out that those animals had managed perfectly well with long legs and short necks for millions of years.)

Other, more credible, alternatives to the dominant ‘competing browsers’ idea have emerged. One of the most popular is that long necks help male giraffes use their heads to bash rivals, or that females prefer them. Both would suggest that long-necked males are sexually selected. 1

So, head bashing was a more credible explanation for long necks than eating or drinking! It’s not a zoo—it’s a funny farm!

Looking for an even more credible explanation than head bashing, scientists have now come up with more ideas.

One such idea is reported in the Journal of Arid Environments (G. Mitchell et al. J. Arid Environ. 145, 35–42; 2017). Long-necked giraffes, scientists argue, can point their heads and necks towards the Sun, exposing less of their skin and making it easier for them to keep cool and survive the hot, dry conditions they often endure. 2

Now you know the truth. Giraffes evolved long necks so they can point their heads at the Sun to keep cool. Why didn’t anybody realize that before?

Of course, you can point your head toward the Sun, and we will bet that you don’t have a neck as long as a giraffe’s. You don’t need a long neck to point your head toward the Sun. And, because you have a shorter neck, you have less neck skin to expose to the Sun in the first place.

The prestigious, peer-reviewed, professional journal, Nature, has been publishing fanciful explanations for how the giraffe got its long neck since 1949! This explanation might be the dumbest, least scientific one yet!

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1 Nature, 12 September 2017, “Giraffes could have evolved long necks to keep cool”, http://www.nature.com/news/giraffes-could-have-evolved-long-necks-to-keep-cool-1.22595
2 ibid.