The giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, is the tallest living terrestrial animal, and is found most commonly in the semi-arid areas of dry savannahs and open woodlands of Africa, south of the Sahara. Historically, the range of giraffes also extended into northern Africa (Dagg, 1971). The characteristic elongate neck is not developed by adding vertebrae but by extending the length of the seven vertebrae that are typically found in mammals (although there is evidence for one additional vertebra in the neck of the giraffe; Solounias, 1999). Their long neck and legs (along with their prehensile lips and elongate tongue) aid the giraffe in feeding on tall acacia and mimosa trees (Nowak, 1999).
Giraffa is allocated to Giraffidae, which also includes the extant okapi. The skull of the giraffids is unique in that the horns develop differently than those found in other groups. The bony horn ossifies separately from the skull and the two fuse together later in development. The fossil record of giraffids extends back into the early Miocene of Africa, and they were found in Europe and Asia from the middle Miocene through the Pleistocene (Nowak, 1999:1084-1089).
About the Species
This specimen is the complete skull of an adult male giraffe (TMM-M6815) born 10 June 1978 and donated by the Gladys Porter Zoo to the Texas Memorial Museum in 1990. It was made available for scanning by Dr. Timothy Rowe of the Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin. Funding for scanning and image processing was provided by a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative grant to Dr. Rowe.
About this Specimen
The skull and mandible were scanned separately at the Heart Hospital of Austin in late August 2003, on Imatron C-150 XP/LP "ultra fast" CT. The skull was scanned along the coronal axis for a total of 500 slices, with an interslice spacing of 1.5 mm and a field of reconstruction of 475.14 mm.
Crisp, E. 1864. Contributions to the anatomy of the giraffe. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1864:63-68.
Dagg, A. I. 1971. Giraffa camelopardalis. Mammalian Species 5:1-8.
Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1936 pp.
Pratt, D. M., and V. H. Anderson. 1985. Giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis social behavior. Journal of Natural History 19:771-782.
Solounias, N. 1999. The remarkable anatomy of the giraffe's neck. Journal of Zoology (London) 247:257-268.
Solounias, N., and N. Tang. 1990. The two types of cranial appendages in Giraffa camelopardalis (Mammalia, Artiodactyla). Journal of Zoology (London) 222:293-302.
Giraffa camelopardalis species account on the Animal Diversity Web (University of Michigan)
Giraffa camelopardalis page (including video) on thebigzoo.com
See more photos of giraffes on lastrefuge.co.uk