In an American Scientist magazine article titled “Watchdogs of the Savanna,” Charlotte Ricker described unusual giraffe features. Here are some of those features:
HEIGHT: A giraffe can be almost 19 feet (5.8 meters) tall. For that reason, the circulatory system has to be specially designed to provide enough pressure to supply blood to the brain. That requires special features of the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. In addition, the long neck allows giraffes to obtain food that other herbivores can’t reach and to see predators from a distance. Because of that, other animals rely on giraffes to alert them of danger.
EYES: Giraffes have the largest eyes of any land animal, allowing them to see those predators. Their long and sensitive eyelashes keep insects away and sense thorns on the acacia tree branches they eat.
PATTERN: The irregular brown markings on the giraffe are not just for appearance. They act as thermal windows with a complex circulatory system around each splotch to radiate or absorb heat.
SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP: Birds called the oxpeckers have feet designed to cling to the giraffe as they eat ticks and other insects from its skin. This provides food for the oxpeckers and protection for the giraffes. Oxpeckers even clean the giraffe’s teeth.
LEGS: The giraffe’s thin legs have a “suspensory ligament,” which allows them to support their weight of up to a fourth of a ton (1270 kgs). This unusual giraffe feature gives them the ability to run up to 37 miles per hour (60 km/hr) and a kick strong enough to kill a lion.
NECK: The neck contains seven cervical vertebrae, the same as a human, but each vertebra can be nearly a foot long. Ball and socket joints connect them for a 360-degree motion range. In addition, a special ligament from the skull to the base of the tail counteracts the weight of the neck and head to relieve muscle strain.
When you see these unusual giraffe features, you have to ask how they originated. Are they the product of evolutionary processes, or were they designed by an intelligence to fulfill a specific purpose in a given environment? The more unique characteristics we see, the less likely that chance processes could have produced them. These are simplified explanations of a few of the design features of a very complex animal.
Looking at the complexity of all living things is an excellent testimony to the wisdom and planning of God. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20).
For more information, read Charlott Ricker’s article “Watchdogs of the Savanna” in American Scientist magazine November/December 2021, page 330.
— John N. Clayton © 2021