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SPECIES: camelopardalis reticulata
Highly selective browsers feeding primarily on a variety of Acacia and Combretum species. Over a hundred species may be eaten, depending on what is seasonally available. Although mostly leaves and shoots are taken, giraffe also eat flowers, vines and herbs. Giraffe have also been seen to eat weaver-bird nests with young inside, and may chew on bones, perhaps to gain additional minerals. An average of 16-20 hours per day are spent feeding and up to 140 lbs of fresh browse are taken. Thorns do not seem to be a deterrent to feeding; the long, prehensile, muscular tongue (which can be extended up to 18 inches), thick, gluey saliva, and special upper palate shape enable the giraffe to process thorny foods. They are ruminants with a 4-chambered stomach.
There are a number of misconceptions about giraffe. One is that they cannot make any sound. Although generally quiet, they have been heard to grunt, snort and bleat. Another is that they never lie down. In fact, they often lie down to sleep, with head and neck lying across the flanks, although these sleeping periods tend to be brief - one to twenty minutes. The length of the forelegs in relation to the hind has been exaggerated. In fact, they are both about the same size (the foreleg is 1/10th longer than the hind). It is the high dorsal spines of the shoulder which give the false impression of a difference in limb length. They have only seven vertebrae in their neck, the same number as man. Horns are bony masses covered with skin and tufts of hair and are not really horns at all. They may represent relics of pedicles from which antlers grew ages before (since giraffe are fairly closely related to deer).
Conspecific fights are effected by neck wrestling and head banging; defense against predators is characterized by striking out with the forefeet. Males have extra bone deposits on their skulls for fighting.
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