New research by scientists at London’s Royal Veterinary College has shown how giraffes are able to support their hefty body weight with such slender legs.
They found that a groove in the mammals’ lower leg bones protects their supportive ligaments. Other animals have this feature too, but in giraffes the ridge is much deeper. This helps them to support their body weight without engaging lots of muscles, which would be exhausting.
Christopher Basu, the PhD student leading the study, explains: “Giraffes are heavy animals (about 1,000kg/2,205lbs), but have unusually skinny limb bones for an animal of this size… This means their leg bones are under high levels of mechanical stress.
“We’re learning new things about giraffe anatomy…This is hugely beneficial to today’s living giraffes; what we learn here can help to advance medical care for giraffes in zoos.”
The team also think that these findings will be able to help uncover how giraffes evolved from their ancestors.