For decades, giraffes’ distinctive necks have been a mysterious feature that has always attracted the attention of scientists, who have sought the answer as to why these animals were shown in the evolutionary history of neck lengthening; What is the power behind this fact and what advantage does it give them?
In this sense, it is widely accepted that the most accepted hypothesis, since Darwin’s time, is that longer necks in individuals of this species represent a particular advantage for foraging in taller trees compared to those with shorter necks. . Small, therefore, this means a greater chance of obtaining resources, surviving and leaving offspring.
Although the vast majority of us will remember this common example used to explain evolution in our biology classes, the fact is that this distinctive feature of giraffes that positions them as the world’s tallest land animal is currently still a matter of great debate among biologists.
Given this, a new study was published today in the prestigious journal Sciences has given new light on this fact and supports another hunch that explains an evolutionary feature different from the one we know based on sexual selection. Their conclusions were based on the analysis of the fossil remains of an ancient graphoid called, Discokeryx xiezhi, A previously unknown species corresponding to the early Miocene (about 16.9 million years ago) was found in northern China in 1996.
Discokeryx xiezhi It is a relative of the giraffe and is distinguished by the presence of a complex skeleton of the head and neck, and is described as an unusual helmet; The study authors described: “It has a densely bony skull with a large disc-shaped helmet, a series of cervical vertebrae with a very thick centra, and the most complex head and neck joints in mammals known to date.” study.
According to various comparative anatomical analyzes and computer simulation methods performed, it is indicated that this unique and robust structure of the ancient graphoid was adapted to withstand intense combat by means of high-speed head buttons between individuals of the species, and in this way, it is suggested that males Discokeryx xiezhi They fought fierce battles to compete for sexual intercourse.
The role of sexual combat in the unique neck formation of the ancestral giraffe has important implications for explaining this fact in the same way in the necks of current giraffes. In this sense, it is thought that based on what has been described above, sexual selection can act by favoring longer necks in individuals as this could represent a characteristic that improves fighting between males with a different fighting style for females.
The “neck” fight was likely the main driving force for giraffes that developed long necks, and high-level mobility is likely a compatible benefit of this evolution. The ecological location of the marginal niches promoted intense sexual competition, and fierce sexual battles led to the formation of extreme forms of occupation of private niches in giraffes. study.
You can consult the full and detailed report at: Sciences
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