Some tall stories

It is no secret that I’m a fan of giraffes. I have said this before, but I feel a certain sense of kinship with them. You know. Tall. Clumsy. Slightly derpy looking.

I was reminded of this when I found an old t-shirt on the bottom of my t-shirt shelf (yes, I have a t-shirt shelf. I’m incredibly organized. *ahem humblebrag ahem*). As you could have guessed, it has a giraffe on it. And that reminded me that I know a lot of random giraffe factoids.

So here are some tall stories, literally.

Giraffe Factoid Numero Uno:

Giraffes are about 2 meter (which is like 6ft6″ I think? Get with the metric, people!) tall at birth, making them worlds tallest baby and also the envy of all the guys on dating apps.

Which is still pretty deep actually.
(comic by Edward Steed for the NewYorker)

Giraffe Factoid II:

No two giraffes have exactly the same spot pattern. Basically, their spots are a bit like human fingerprints. This is very useful for giraffe-scientists – also known as girafologists (not really) – because it can help them recognize their study subjects easily without having to check for toe prints every time.

Fabulous, and unique!

Giraffe Factoid Number Three:

Giraffes’ tongues can be up to 50 cm (20 inches?) long. *insert another tinder joke here*

This long tongue helps them eat. Giraffes binge on acacia leaves, which unfortunately grow on thorny trees. Thanks to the long tongue, they can reach around the thorns and get to the tasty leaves without getting a scratched tongue!

Their tongue is also blue-black-purple in color, because it has a lot of melanin. This is probably to protect giraffe tongues from sunburn.

Nahnahnahnah Nah Nah. The [sun and the thorns] can’t get me!

Giraffe Factoid Number 4:

Ironically, many giraffes have a fear of heights. I think this is why I identify so strongly with them… I too am tall and get dizzy even when just standing.

Spotted outside a bar in Brisbane. Hey, did I ever tell you I went to Australia?

Giraffe Factoid Number now-for-real-number-four

Male giraffes test a female’s fertility by tasting her urine.

On the subject of urine, did you know that early pregnancy tests relied on… frogs? In the late 20s, a South African researcher discovered that if you injected certain hormones in a certain frog (Xenopus laevis), they would start ovulating. These hormones are also present in the urine of pregnant woman. With that, frogs became the first reliable pregnancy test!

Giraffe Factoid Number Funf

If you have read Harry Potter, or any other British literature aimed at teens, you might think that necking means snogging. Which means kissing, the French way. But in the giraffe world, necking means smacking another giraffe with your neck. It looks scary.

Hey, did you know that giraffes have the exact same number of neck vertebrae as humans? Their just a lot bigger. And presumably stronger, if they can do all that necking.

Image result for giraffe necking gif
And now… neck. No, that’s not what I meant!

Giraffe Factoid Number Final-One

Giraffes are awesome. And if you don’t agree, well, that’s just your opinion! (The giraffes being awesome thing is totally objective.)


A tale of four giraffes

I have a sweet spot for giraffes. I’d like to say this is because they remind me of myself. Tall. Graceful. Beautifully spotted. Elegant. Content with strolling around all day slowely and chewing leaves. Have scary but awesome looking neck fights.

I’m taller than average, granted, but other than that I am not graceful, if I have spots they’re definitely not beautiful, elegance has never been used to describe me (clumsy however…), I tend to walk quickly and need a bit more nourishment than just leaves, and whoever even dares to get close to my neck will probably get a face-elbow in reply.

Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t find giraffes interesting, and I was quite excited to read that a giraffe-related discovery had been made recently.

There is more than one kind of giraffe.

There are four.

For years – well, since 1758 – it was assumed that there was one species of giraffes, grouping together nine sub-species. These nine are all relatively similar looking, except for some differences in their spot size and patterns. However, researchers have discovered that there are actually four genetically distinct species. They do not mate with each other in the wild, which was an unexpected finding because giraffes migrate over vast areas and they are able to interbreed in captivity.

You might not find this particularly intriguing, but I can’t help but thinking that it’s a “fun fact” to know that two giraffes, looking very similar, can actually be as different from each other as a brown bear to a polar bear.

Also, it’s like seeing evolution in action. Giraffes are a relatively young species so we are seeing the emergence of different species happen in real time.

Finally, it can give society the boost it needs to protect giraffes. Now that they are different species, three of them can be added to the list of highly endangered species. Which is awful, of course, but can provide the awareness we need to get the numbers back up. We need more of these majestic giraffes in the world. Not more weird tall people who clumsily stumble around in giraffe onesies. (Not me, at all.)

Read more about the four giraffe species in the original publication: