This is an acrylic watercolour painting I did in 1982.
The reference for the silhouetted image of a giraffe making its way across the scorched red East African plains beneath a huge fiery yellow sun came from a photograph in a natural history book.
I cannot locate the particular book amongst my collection and can only assume that it may have been borrowed from the public library or from a friend or family member. Therefore, unfortunately I can provide no further details or reference to the source of my featured illustration.
With apologies for this, I have set a slideshow beneath the featured image focussed on the giraffe family, which includes its close relative the okapi and its ancestral lineage, the sivatheria and protoceratids.
It is listed as follows:
Aussiefied Giraffe at Melbourne Zoo
Sharp Thorns Tough Tongue
Endangered West African Undercover
Juicy Acacia and Caterpillar Pâté
Joust a Necking Tournament
Weavers Park’s Nosey Parkers
Mikumi National Park’s Parkers
Woodland Okapi displaying Butt Stripes
Dawning of the Protoceratids
Sivatherium is Giraffid Ancestor [Sivatherium image by Heinrich Harder]
Gamboling Sivathere on Lucky Streak
Sivathere Observing Wholly Savannah
Sivathere Browsing on Googleberry
Woodland Sivathere is Spotted
Dave Draper 2014
Scientists think that giraffids evolved from small deerlike ancestors 20 million years ago. Early giraffids were among the first artidactyls to evolve into large animals and move from dense forest into more open habitats. The expansion of Africa’s plains during the Pliocene epoch [2 million to 5 million years ago] triggered a rise in the number of giraffid species, such as Samotherium boissieri, a type of grazing okapi.
By the start of the Pleistocene around 2 million years ago, at least seven species of giraffids browsed on the plains of Africa and Asia. They included Giraffa jumae, an animal even taller and heavier than the modern giraffe.
However, over time the family dwindled. Just two species of giraffids survive, relatives disappeared quite recently. Sivatherium was a genus of stocky giraffes with two large ossicones on the head and a smaller pair on the muzzle.
The last of the genus, Sivatherium giganteum, may have become extinct as recently as 8000 years ago; a bronze statuette, which looks very like a Sivatherium, suggests that the species may have survived even later in parts of Asia. Various pieces of rock art purportedly depict sivatheres – and a Sumerian figurine discovered at Kish, central Iraq, in 1928 – might also depict a sivathere.
Modern giraffes have a relatively longer neck than their extinct Sivatherium cousins, which looked more like okapis.
From Marshall Cavendish Reference [ISBN 978-0-7614-7882-9] – Compiled and Edited by Dave Draper 2014
Taxonomy and evolution
The giraffe belongs to the suborder Ruminantia. Many Ruminantia have been described from the mid-Eocene in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and North America. The ecological conditions during this period may have facilitated their rapid dispersal. The giraffe is one of only two living species of the family Giraffidae, the other being the okapi. The family was once much more extensive, with over 10 fossil genera described. Their closest known relatives are the extinct climacocerids. They, together with the family Antilocapridae [whose only extant species is the pronghorn], belong to the superfamily Giraffoidea. These animals evolved from the extinct family Palaeomerycidae 8 mya [million years ago] in south-central Europe during the Miocene epoch.
While some ancient giraffids, such as Sivatherium, had massive bodies, others, such as Giraffokeryx, Palaeotragus [possible ancestor of the okapi], Samotherium, and Bohlinia, were more elongated. Bohlinia entered China and northern India in response to climate change. From here, the genus Giraffa evolved and, around 7 mya, entered Africa.
Further climate changes caused the extinction of the Asian giraffes, while the African ones survived and radiated into several new species.
G. camelopardalis arose around 1 mya in eastern Africa during the Pleistocene. Some biologists suggest the modern giraffe descended from G. jumae; others find G. gracilis a more likely candidate. The main driver for the evolution of the giraffes is believed to have been the change from extensive forests to more open habitats, which began 8 mya.
Some researchers have hypothesized that this new habitat coupled with a different diet, including Acacia, may have exposed giraffe ancestors to toxins that caused higher mutation rates and a higher rate of evolution.
The giraffe was one of the many species first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. He gave it the binomial name Cervus camelopardalis [*Cervus – see footnote]. Morten Thrane Brünnich classified the genus Giraffa in 1772. In the early 19th century, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck believed the giraffe’s long neck was an acquired characteristic, developed as generations of ancestral giraffes strove to reach the leaves of tall trees.
This theory was eventually rejected, and scientists now believe the giraffe’s neck arose through Darwinian natural selection, that ancestral giraffes with long necks thereby had a competitive advantage, which better enabled them to reproduce and pass on their genes.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – Edited by Dave Draper .
Natural Selection – The Facts and the Fiction
The concept of natural selection in evolution is a complicated one that many people struggle to understand. Highschool students, university undergraduates, and even instructors who teach evolution all struggle with the key elements of this theory.
A major misconception is that changes in adaptive traits occur at the individual level and within a single lifespan, rather than at the population level and across many generations. An example of this misunderstanding is the idea that giraffes have long necks because individual animals stretched to reach leaves on high branches.
This is in contrast to the fact that giraffes possessing longer necks as a function of normal genetic variability were more likely to survive and reproduce compared to those with shorter necks [therefore propagating the trait of longer necks].
A recent study investigated whether this complicated concept could be taught to young children using a fictional storybook, providing a demonstration of the potential for facts to be learned from fiction
Psychological scientist Deborah Kelemen of Boston University and colleagues observed that by the time children formally learn about natural selection in school — typically between grades 8 and 12 in the United States — they have often formed causal misconceptions about how such change occurs over time.
The researchers hypothesized that these misconceptions might be avoided if the basic concepts surrounding natural selection were introduced earlier, in a clear and understandable way. Their findings support this hypothesis, indicating that young children really can be taught concepts that are often thought of as “too advanced”:
“It shows that kids are a lot smarter than we ever give them credit for. They can handle a surprising degree of complexity when you frame things in a way that taps into the natural human drive for a good, cohesive explanation,” Kelemen said in a statement from Boston University
The researchers recruited 28 five-to-six-year-olds and 33 seven-to-eight-year-olds to participate in the study. The children were presented with a storybook that told about a fictional mammal with a trunk, the pilosa; the pilosa uses its trunk to get insects for food. When the climate changed, the insects moved underground, into long, narrow tunnels. This was no problem for the pilosas that had thin trunks, but the pilosas with wide trunks could no longer reach the insects and many of the wide-trunked pilosas didn’t survive.
Children of both ages not only demonstrated better understanding of natural selection immediately after being read the book, they were also able to generalize this understanding to another animal, an important demonstration of knowledge transfer.
Most impressive, this improvement in understanding was also evident 3 months later during a follow-up test. A second study replicated these findings in a second sample, using a slightly different storybook that communicated an even more nuanced conception of natural selection.
The question of whether one can learn fact from fiction has often been debated in both philosophy and psychology, and this study provides important evidence that even at young ages children can acquire complex concepts through exposure to fiction and generalize it appropriately to the real world.
Edited from several sources: On Fiction – An Online Magazine on the Psychology of Fiction – The research on the pilosa studies was highlighted in stories from several news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, NPR, Scientific American, and Business Insider. Kelemen, D., Emmons, N., Seston Schillaci, R., & Ganea, P. . Young children can be taught basic natural selection using a picture-storybook intervention. Psychological Science,
Compiled and Edited by Dave Draper 2014
The okapi; Okapia johnstoni, also known as the forest giraffe or zebra giraffe is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the Ituri Rainforest, located in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of zebras, it is most closely related to the giraffe. The okapi and the giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae.
The animal was brought to prominent European attention by speculation on its existence found in popular press reports covering Henry Morton Stanley’s journeys in 1887. Remains of a carcass were later sent to London by the English adventurer and colonial administrator Harry Johnston and became a media event in 1901. A 2013 study determined there are 10,000 okapis remaining in the wild, down from 40,000 a decade ago. The same year, the okapi was reclassified as an endangered species.
The generic name Okapia derives from the Lese Karo name o’api, while the specific name johnstoni is in recognition of the British Governor of Uganda, Harry Johnston, who first acquired an okapi specimen for science from the Ituri Forest while repatriating a group of Pygmies to the Belgian Congo.
Okapis have reddish dark backs, with striking horizontal white stripes on the front and back legs, making them resemble zebras from a distance. These markings possibly help young follow their mothers through the dense rain forest and may also serve as camouflage. From a human viewpoint, the hindquarters can resemble an immaculately close-fitting pair of striped knickerbockers and white stockings.
The body shape is similar to that of the giraffe, except okapis have much shorter necks. Like the giraffe, the okapi has long legs and a robust body. Both species have very long [about 35-cm], flexible tongues used to strip leaves and buds from trees.
The okapi’s tongue is also long enough for the animal to wash its eyelids and clean its ears [inside and out]. This sticky tongue is pointed and bluish-grey in colour like that of the giraffe. Male okapis have short, skin-covered horns called ossicones [horn-like or antler-like protuberances]. Their large ears help them detect their predator, the leopard.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Compiled, edited and with additional input in one paragraph by Dave Draper 2014.
Protoceras [first horns] is an extinct genus of Artiodactyla, of the family Protoceratidae, endemic to North America from the Oligocene through Miocene [Orellan to Harrisonian stage] 33.9 – 20.6 Mya [BP] existing for approximately 13.3 million years
Protoceras was 3 ft 4 in [1 m] long and resembled a deer in terms of body shape. Like some other protoceratids it had three pairs of blunt horns on its skull. In life these were probably covered with skin, much like the ossicones of a giraffe.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A North American Miocene genus of ungulates related to the chevrotains.
Origin of PROTOCERAS: New Latin, from prot + ceras.
Sivatherium; Shiva’s beast is an extinct genus of giraffid that ranged throughout Africa to the Indian Subcontinent. The African species, S. maurusium, was once placed within the genus Libytherium. It may have become extinct as recently as 8,000 years ago, as depictions that greatly resemble it are known from ancient rock paintings in the Sahara desert
Sivatherium resembled the modern okapi, but was far larger, and more heavily built, being about 7 ft 4 in [2.2 meters] tall at the shoulder, 10 ft [3 m] in total height with a weight up to 35 stone 10 lbs [500 kg]. It had a wide, antler-like pair of ossicones on its head, and a second pair of ossicones above its eyes. Its shoulders were very powerful to support the neck muscles required to lift the heavy skull.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Sivatherium By Bob Strauss
Sivatherium: Greek for Shiva beast; pronounced SEE-vah-THEE-ree-um
[The above text extract is accompanied by the Sivatherium image by Heinrich Harder – See slideshow and slideshow list; both located within this web-posting]
Plains of India and Africa
Late Pliocene – Early Holocene [5 million – 10,000 years ago]
Size and Weight:
About 13 feet long and 1,000 – 2,000 pounds [about 71–142 stones]
Large size; moose-like build; two sets of horns
Although it was directly ancestral to modern giraffes, Sivatherium’s squat build and elaborate head display made it look more like a moose [if you inspect its noggin closely, though, you’ll see the two small, distinctly giraffe-like ossicones perched on top of its eyes, under its more elaborate, moose-like horns]. Like much of the mammalian megafauna of the Pleistocene epoch, Sivatherium was hunted to extinction by early humans; pictures of this prehistoric mammal have been found preserved on rocks in the Sahara Desert.
From Sivatherium By Bob Strauss
Deer [Cervus] versus Antelope
The most prominent difference between antelopes and deer is that male deer have antlers which they shed and grow every year while antelopes have horns that are permanent. Another difference is that deer antlers are branched and antelope horns are not. Antelopes belong to the Bovidae family [as do sheep, goats and cattle], while deer belong to the Cervidae family. Both are even-toed ungulates [hoofed animals] and ruminant mammals of the artiodactyl order.
An antelope is an even-toed ungulate species indigenous to various regions in Africa and Eurasia. Antelopes comprise a wastebasket taxon [miscellaneous group] within the family Bovidae, encompassing those Old World species that are neither cattle, sheep, water buffalo, bison, nor goats. A group of antelope is called a herd.
Antelope are not a cladistic or taxonomically defined group. The term is used to describe all members of the family Bovidae that do not fall under the category of sheep, cattle, or goats. Usually, all species of the Alcelaphinae, Antilopinae, Hippotraginae, Reduncinae, Cephalophinae, many Bovinae, the grey rhebok, and the impala are called antelopes.
Compiled and Edited by Dave Draper 2014
In a separate family of its own, a giraffe could be a described as a deer-like antelope or an antelope with deer-like features or qualities; or as springing from a lineage ancestral to both deer and antelope, as could be illustrated by the physical characteristics of the Sivatherium, an ancestor of the giraffe and okapi, which resembled a cross between an elk and an antelope.
Dave Draper 2014