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Stick your necks out, boys, or girls will trade yours in for ...


Stick your necks out, boys, or girls will trade yours in for longer ones

Recently unearthed fossils of a beast built for headbutting reveal the early evolution of giraffes’ necks

Will Dunham

Fossils unearthed in China of a forerunner of the modern giraffe are offering insight into the early evolution of this mammal’s trademark long neck, driven not only by the benefit of reaching high foliage, but also by head-bashing competition between males for mates.

Researchers on Thursday described skeletal remains, including a thick skull and strong neck bones, of an early member of the giraffe family called Discokeryx xiezhi, about the size of a large bighorn sheep, that lived about 17-million years ago in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China.

Discokeryx’s solidly built skull and strong cervical vertebrae were well adapted to high-speed head-to-head impact such as that seen in competition among males of some mammal species for female mates, according to the researchers. Discokeryx boasted, they said, the most complex joints between the head and neck, as well as between the individual neck bones, of any mammal...

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