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Giraffe Weekend: “You Cannot Simply Stretch out the Neck”

For your weekend enjoyment, we’re delighted to offer the classic three-part ID the Future series on the evolutionary enigma of the long-necked giraffe. It’s an interview with geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig on the occasion of the publication of his book The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe.

As Dr. Lönnig concludes:

You cannot, as was suggested by Richard Dawkins, simply stretch out the neck during an embryonic deviation, and then have a long-necked giraffe. You have a system of co-adaptive, coordinated parts which all must work together to allow a giraffe to survive and live in the wild. And the question is, of course, can mutations produce over millions of years these differences between a short-necked and a long-necked giraffe?

Spoiler alert: The answer is no. The giraffe is one of those all-star icons of evolution, familiar from textbook covers, that falls apart on closer inspection. Download the podcast or listen to it here.

Photo credit: 12019, via Pixabay.