What is it about?

Giraffes' long neck and legs help them reach food high up, but do tall legs help or hinder their locomotion? In this study we considered whether giraffes' long limbs make it more difficult for them to counteract gravity. We found that giraffes are particularly challenged by gravity, and have to produce large muscle forces to keep themselves upright.

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Why is it important?

This study deepens our understanding of giraffe evolution. On one hand we are familiar with how leg and neck elongation has helped giraffes, but we now see that this specialization does come with a penalty, which in this case is athletic performance.

Perspectives

Giraffes are instantly recognizable and an unforgettable sight in the wild and in zoos across the world. But we know surprisingly little about them and their close relatives, particularly when it comes to their anatomy and biomechanics. Our study shows how giraffes’ anatomy impacts the way their limbs function, and teaches us something new about their evolutionary story.

Christopher Basu

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This page is a summary of: Low effective mechanical advantage of giraffes’ limbs during walking reveals trade-off between limb length and locomotor performance, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2108471119.
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