Photo of the Day #1: Male Gerenuk


Even though the Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) most readily comes to mind when I think of a long-necked mammal, there are many other living artiodactyls that have long necks for their body size, one of my favorites being the Gerenuk, Litocranius walleri. Gerenuks are most commonly seen in East Africa and often stand up on their hind legs while browsing to make the most of the available food resources, allowing them a bit more reach than many of their antelope relatives. The picture above is of a male, taken in the summer of 2006 at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park, as horns are only carried by the male of this bovid species.

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The photo I posted yesterday of a male Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) has prompted some discussion about other long-necked artiodactyls, especially the living representatives of the family Giraffidae. Although the family once contained more members (like the oddly-ornamented Sivatherium), only the…
If you visit zoos often enough, you'll probably eventually see at least one pair of animals mating with each other. While I didn't actually see the two gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) in flagrante delicto, the male chased the female around a bit with that intention. Much like a cat in heat, the…
Giraffine giraffes (that is, the giraffid clade that includes Giraffa and its closest relatives) are famous for being long necked, with the usual explanation for the neck being that it evolved to enable these animals to avoid competing with other browsers. But for this assumption to be…
If asked "Why do giraffes have such long necks?", the majority of people - professional biologists among them - will answer that it's something to do with increasing vertical reach and hence feeding range. But while the 'increased vertical reach' or 'increased feeding envelope' hypothesis has…

I saw a small group of gerenuks at the San Diego zoo. Strange little things. They're the kind of critter you want to show to a creationist and say "See? See?" when talking about giraffes.
Actually, the gerenuks were right across from a family of okapis, which are among my favorite African mammals. Only other member of the giraffe family, I believe, and surprisingly massive.


I see a narrow neck, not a long neck. Is it capable of stretching further than what is shown in the photo while feeding? Compared to the giraffe, okapi and camel, the gerenuk seems typical in neck length to me. Good to see you here at Science Blogs.

Hi DD. Thanks for the comment, although I stand by my initial assertion that it has a long neck compared to many other bovids. It might not be as comparatively long compared to body size as that of a Giraffe, but it's definitely longer in comparison to an Okapi and comparable to that of a Camel, I think. Many antelope and gazelle species I have seen have had shorter, thicker necks, and the Gerenuk definitely stands out in this regard. Given the discussion, I'll post some more artiodactyl photos up over the next few days for comparison.

I agree about the okapi, but at least some camels seem to be much longer necked than the photo here of the gerenuk. I've read somewhere that the giraffe and camel have the longest necks. But among bovids, yes, I agree, the gerenuk seems to be the champion.

Switching over to marine reptile mode but maintaining long necked status critters, the plesiosaur at this link:

was determined to be a (part-time?) benthic-sessile-food eating molluscivore based on GI tract contents and internal polished pebbles. Do you know why it is portrayed as a surface floater? Wouldn't it make more sense if it were on or near the bottom of shallow seas, poking it's head up for air? Was it quite fat (buoyant) or did it have large air sacs for flotation? I thought the bones were relatively dense. I wonder too if it perhaps stuck it's head into reef caves and tunnels to capture fish, using suction feeding, typical of mollusc feeders like walruses.

It certainly doesn't look like a fish or squid chaser, but perhaps a flounder/sole & octopus (conch? sea urchin? starfish?) eater.

Thanks for the link DD! That definitely looks like news that could be made into a post (I just need some time to get some background on it first). Given the diversity of plesiosaurs I'm not surprised that some would eat critters on the sea bottom as long necks usually allow for a wider vertical range of food opportunities. I would want to check out the teeth of this one to see if they were somehow better adapted to hard-shelled prey, but across plesiosaur taxa there was probably a variety of feeding preferences. I'll properly attribute your contribution when I can properly present the news.