Do you know what goes on in that record-long neck of a giraffe?
A team of researchers set out sequence the genome of this impressive mammal and found some DNA eccentricities that might explain how the tallest creatures on the planet can keep their strikingly long necks straight.
Pumping blood to the brain – up to two meters up from the midsection – is no easy task; in fact, it requires a turbo-charged heart and a doubled blood pressure compared to other warm-blooded creatures.
At the same time, giraffes require some uncommon security valves that will allow them to bend down and have a drink of water without coming back up all dizzy and swooning. The design of this exceptional creature has long been a riddle for researchers.
Part of that mystery has been unlocked by making a comparison between the genome of the giraffe and its nearest relative – the short-necked okapi – which allowed researchers to pinpoint changes in the qualities required both for dissemination and controlling body shape.
The findings suggest that the giraffe’s long neck and its efficient heart developed together, driven by the same genetic changes. Morris Agaba of the African Institute for Science and Technology in Tanzania, explained that:
“There are many theories about how the giraffe’s neck lengthened but it does seem that the development of the cardiovascular system evolved in parallel with the development of the skeletal system.”
The discoveries of Agaba and his partners were published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday.
Finding out the role of the hereditary elements responsible for the giraffe’s surprising cardiovascular system could also shine some light for human health.
Researchers were particularly interested in discovering how the creatures can keep away from organ harm caused by high blood pressure and hypertension. However, it’s still an open question why giraffes have such long necks.
For two decades, the generally accepted theory was that the mammals needed to reach the ever-higher sustenance supplies, but it was then refuted by a new hypothesis claiming that it had to do with reproductive purposes and rivalry among battling guys for potential mates.
Unlike winged creatures with long necks, giraffes don’t have extra vertebrae; they all have the same seven vertebrae found in other warm-blooded animals. The only difference is that theirs are significantly broadened.
Image Source: Pixabay