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How The Giraffe Got (or didn't get) Its Long Neck



Richard W. Travsky writes:
 > with maybe some relation to long necked dinosaurs...
 > 
 > http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8050000/8050298.stm

The BBC are bit late to this party: the paper was published online
just over month ago (17th April), and reported here on the DML in one
of Jerry's periodic round-ups three days later:
        http://dml.cmnh.org/2009Apr/msg00196.html

By the way, the PDF itself seems to be freely available here:
        http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122328715/abstract

There is an interesting meta-lesson to be learned from this: as soon
as the Simmmons and Scheepers (1996) paper came out, it seemed to be
accepted as orthodoxy that giraffe necks are sexual signals, and it's
taken two subsequent papers (Cameron et al. 2007, Mitchell et
al. 2009) to overturn that that return us to the more obvious
interpretation of long necks as (at least in part) a feeding
adaptation.  We need to be a bit more careful about leaping onto any
given new hypothesis as being The Truth.  Same applies to the
prolacertiform origin of pterosaurs (which seemed to be discussed as
though it was a given back when I first joined this list) and the low,
horizontal neck postures currently used for sauropods.

... and by the way, I do with Mitchell et al. had had the courage to
call THEIR paper "winning by a neck", too.

 _/|_    ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor    <mike@indexdata.com>    http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  Never look a gift-chicken in the beak.


Cameron, Elissa Z., and Johan T. du Toit.  2007.  Winning by a Neck:
Tall Giraffes Avoid Competing with Shorter Browsers.  The American
Naturalist 169 (1): 130-135.

Mitchell, G., S. J. van Sittert and J. D. Skinner.  2009.  Sexual
selection is not the origin of long necks in giraffes.  Journal of
Zoology.  Published online 17 April 2009.
doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00573.x

Simmons, Robert E., Lue Scheepers (1996).  Winning by a Neck:
Sexual Selection in the Evolution of Giraffe.  American
Naturalist, Volume 148, Issue 5 (Nov., 1996), 771-786.