Giraffes on the African plain primarily eat the leaves and buds of the Acacia tree. The tree has developed sharp thorns along its branches to try to fend off the herds, but the Giraffe has kept pace, evolving a long and dexterous tongue.
A giraffe’s tongue will be about 18 to 20 inches in length. It is prehensile, like a monkey’s tail, which means the muscles have adapted to be suited for grasping things. I’m quite confident that a giraffe might choose to gross out his friends every now and again by licking his own ear. I know I would if I could.
Their tongue is usually a greyish-pink or darker, perhaps to prevent the tongue from getting sunburn. When you spend 75% of your day in the African sun licking a tree, that would be a major concern.
A giraffe’s neck actually has the same number of bones as we do. Seven cervical vertebrae. (We mammals aren’t so different) However, each one of these individual bones is about 10 inches long.
The spots on a giraffe, while providing camouflage, also hint at an interesting pattern of blood vessels underneath the skin. Each brown spot corresponds with the outline of major blood vessels, with smaller offshoots that cover the inner area of the patches.
By moving blood through these veins, the giraffe can cool its internal system the same as a car’s radiator. As such, if you were to look at a giraffe through a infrared “heat-scope” you would see the same spot pattern shown in the hotter and cooler areas on its skin.
- Source: Giraffe: The Facts – Giraffe Conservation Society