Giraffes can have long necks for fighting, not just for food

Headbutting is an old and widespread form of conflict resolution. dinosaurs love Pachycephalosaurus had robust skulls, and head banging...


Headbutting is an old and widespread form of conflict resolution. dinosaurs love Pachycephalosaurus had robust skulls, and head banging remains common among bighorn sheep, chameleons, and even whales.

But the researchers suggested that Discokeryx was particularly good at one-on-one combat. The team scanned and reconstructed Discokeryx’s skull and neck in three dimensions. They then compared it to modern head butters: musk oxen, argali mountain sheep and Himalayan blue sheep. Using computer models, they deduced that Discokeryx’s skull absorbed more strikes and dampened its brain better than its modern counterparts. He could have died without it – the team estimated that collisions between Discokeryx were probably twice as powerful as head-banging muskoxen, which hit each other at almost 25 miles per hour.

The series of interlocking neck joints have yet to be discovered in any other vertebrate, living or dead, giving Discokeryx the most optimized head-strike gear ever discovered, the researchers say. “This animal is an extreme example of the use of headbutting as a tool in combat,” Dr Meng said.

While the new fossil’s biomechanics are interesting, the fact that they bumped into each other isn’t particularly surprising, says Nikos Solounias, a paleontologist at the New York Institute of Technology who studies giraffe evolution and didn’t did not participate in the new study. Virtually all modern hoofed mammals use their heads for fighting, including modern giraffes. But their violent fighting style is very different from how Discokeryx dueled. Giraffes “hit each other sideways with their heads and necks”, instead of heading head-on, Dr Solounias said, hitting each other with their bony horn-like ossicones.

If it seems that some of the first giraffe parents as Discokeryx were built more for fighting than foraging, they always had a specialized diet. Although they could not reach the treetops, chemical analyzes of Discokeryx teeth revealed that the ancestral giraffe occupied a distinct ecological niche.

Dr. Wang believes the ancestral giraffes’ penchant for fighting ultimately helped feed them skyward.

“As the males used their necks for increasingly fierce fights and their necks grew longer and longer, they could finally reach the higher leaves,” he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Giraffes can have long necks for fighting, not just for food
Giraffes can have long necks for fighting, not just for food
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