Giraffes May Have Evolved Long Necks To Headbutt Rivals In Love, Study Suggests Science and technology news

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Giraffes may have evolved long necks to headbutt rivals when mating, researchers in China have suggested.

It is widely believed that the modern giraffe’s distinctive neck, which is the largest land animal, evolved to allow the animal to access the leaves of the treetops for food.

However, a Chinese research team said the necks grew so they could compete for mates rather than food.

An analysis of the fossils of an early giraffe’s ancestor suggests that sexual selection, driven by competition among males, may have contributed to their evolution of the long neck.

By observing the behavior of giraffes, scientists believe that the long neck serves as a weapon in male courtship competition and the longer the neck, the greater the damage done to the opponent.

Researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted their study on Discokeryx xiezhi, an early giraffe.

They analyzed fossils from around 17 million years ago in the northern part of Xinjiang’s Junggar Basin.

Scientists found a complete skull and four cervical vertebrae.

Picture:
Fossils of the extinct species (front) show that the long neck may have evolved for mating reasons

“The traditional hypothesis to drive giraffe neck elongation is eating — reaching up to get tree leaves,” said Jin Meng of the American Museum of Natural History.

“This new finding shows that members of the giraffe family do different things early in development.

“The new species represents an extreme example in which the neck is not lengthened but becomes very thick to absorb the force and impact of strong headbutts.”



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