The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) has probably
got its name from the Arabic word zerafa or ziraafa,
which means ‘charming'. There is indeed something enchanting
in these brown-eyed beauties of the African Savannah.
Charles Darwin did not use the giraffe's neck as an
icon of evolution in the first editions of The Origin
of Species. He did, however, mention it in the 1872
After Darwin's time the giraffe's neck evolved into
an icon that was used as proof of the might of natural
selection, a major ingredient in his thinking. The full
title of Darwin's book was On the Origin of Species
by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of
Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
Before Darwin, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829),
a French naturalist, suggested that organisms can pass
on acquired characteristics to their offspring. According
to Lamarckism, the giraffe got its long neck by stretching
it to reach the succulent leaves of trees. Long-necked
giraffes passed on this trait to their offspring.
In the Darwinian view, long-necked giraffes were more
successful in finding food on the African savannah and
got more offspring than their short-necked cousins.
Although the Darwinian explanation is interesting,
it is not based on real science but on a wish to prove
that evolution is real. It is nothing short of a just
Unfortunately, some high school biology texts have
used this icon as proof of evolution.
Giraffes live on the savannah where most of the trees
are rather short acacias (Acacia). Often giraffe's heads
can be seen towering above the trees.
Usually, giraffes do not eat from the taller trees,
such as the baobab (Adansonia digitata) and sausage
tree (Kigelia africana). Actually, the long neck is
at times a handicap for giraffes. They often have to
bend it downwards in order to eat the thorny yet obviously
delicious leaves of the acacia.
The giraffe's blood pressure system speaks of incredibly
intelligent design. Since its head can tower over five
meters (15 feet) above the ground, we would expect that
bending to drink water from a pool would be a real hazard
for a giraffe. But it is not.
I have seen tens of giraffes in the savannahs of Kenya.
Called twigas in Swahili, their feeding habits do no
match with the ones described in high school biology
But perhaps the writers of the high school biology
textbooks have never seen a giraffe in its natural habitat.
About the Author
Joel Kontinen is an author and translator currently
living in Finland. His bacground includes an MA in translation
studies and a BA in Bible and Theology. He mostly writes
about origins issues. Blog:. http://joelkontinen.blogspot.com/