A video of a giraffe majestically performing the splits in order to reach some grass to eat has gone viral over the last few days and it's easy to see why. Before we get to that, let's have a look at how giraffes got into this situation in the first place.
Giraffes, let's face it, are perhaps one of the oddest-looking creatures on the planet. There are several theories for why they evolved such long necks.
The first, which was initially suggested by French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck back in the early 19th Century, is the one you're probably familiar with or at least the one you'd intuitively think was the reason: Their necks became longer to adapt to their environment as foliage close to the ground became more sparse.
"This animal, the largest of the mammals, is known to live in the interior of Africa in places where the earth is nearly always arid and without herbage, obliging it to browse on the leaves of trees and to continually strive to reach up to them," he wrote in 1809.
"It has resulted from this habit, maintained for a long time by all the individuals of the race, that the forelegs have become longer than the hind legs and its neck has so lengthened itself that the giraffe, without standing on its hind legs, raises its head and reaches a height of 6 meters (nearly 20 feet)."
Darwin elaborated on this theory, arguing that the adaption came from natural selection rather than stretching of their necks followed by inheritance. He believed that it was the result of natural selection and that giraffes with longer necks were more likely to survive during times such as drought or food scarcity, and thus they were able to pass on this trait to the next generation.
The second theory is that it's to do with mating behavior. Male giraffes whack their necks at each other in a surprisingly brutal display. The males with longer necks are more likely to win the fights and so go on to breed.
The third idea, a lot more recent than the first two, is that their necks evolved as a way of thermoregulating. With long necks, they can keep cooler. Not by having more surface area to volume as you might expect, but because they can point their heads towards the Sun, as they are often observed doing. When they do this, the flat sides of their necks are removed from direct sunlight and kept in the shade.
Ok, that's enough learning. As a treat, here is the video as promised, as well as a few of our favorite reactions.