Scientists have already concluded why the long neck of the giraffe is advantageous: it gives giraffes a higher vantage point to watch out for danger and to reach vegetation. It also provides a large surface area to regulate body temperature.
But the question of how the giraffe’s physiology allows for such a large distance from its heart to its head has been the focus of a new study. For many years, scientists assumed that giraffes’ long necks were made possible by an abnormally large heart that could pump blood two meters up their necks into their heads.
The recent study by Professor Graham Mitchell from the Centre of Wildlife Studies in Onderstepoort, South Africa proves otherwise. His team has found that the giraffe’s heart is actually smaller than the hearts found in similar-sized animals. However, the walls of the heart are much thicker, which makes for a more powerful pump. In this way, a giraffe’s blood pressure is quite high, but it is physically adapted to handle this heightened state.
For more information about the study, see BBC Earth News.
To learn more about giraffes, read Animal Fact Guide’s article: Giraffe.