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Apologetics Press :: Decisive Designs

What Giraffes Will Do for a Drink
by Nathaniel Nelson
[Español]
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If you travel across the great savannahs of Africa, you will come upon animals of all shapes and sizes. Yet, as you look among them, none of these animals stands as tall as the giraffe. If you take a closer look, you might see the giraffe perform an amazing feat—bend down to get a drink of water. The giraffe is the world’s tallest terrestrial animal, and can reach well over 12 feet in height. As the giraffe leans over to get a drink, there are some interesting features at work beneath its famously patterned skin. One of these elements is the giraffe’s elongated neck. Evolutionary theory has tried for decades to explain the phenomenon of the giraffe’s neck, but such conjectures cannot account for the anatomical and physiological mastery exhibited in the giraffe. William R. Corliss observed in his book, Biological Anomalies: “In sum, Nature is very anomalous or, equivalently, Nature is not yet well understood. Much remains to be done” (1995, p. v, emp. in orig.). Could there be a reason for animals such as the giraffe to be so uncharacteristically diverse?

THE GIRAFFE’S ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY

Figure of giraffe extending neck upwardThere are other animals that have extended necks. As Corliss went on to note: “Several mammalian browsers have developed particularly long necks that help them reach high foliage; viz., the dibatags and gerenuks” (p. 106). But of all the long-necked animals, the giraffe is probably the most mind-boggling. Corliss contrasted the giraffe with other such creatures: “But, the giraffe’s neck is so long that major body modifications were required during the (supposed) evolution from short-necked okapi like animals” (p. 106, parenthetical item in orig.).

Let us assume, for a moment, that the giraffe really did evolve by chance processes over time. In order for the giraffe’s neck to lengthen, the heart would need to be able to pump harder in order to push blood up the neck to the brain. Bristol Foster commented in National Geographic on the giraffe’s heart: “To drive blood eight feet up to the head, the heart is exceptionally large and thick-muscled, and the blood pressure—twice or three times that of man—is probably the highest in any animal” (1977, p. 409). This heart would need to evolve concurrently with the neck in order for the giraffe to survive.

Figure of giraffe extending neck upwardWhile this change is occurring (remember, all of this must be synchronized in order for the giraffe to survive), the giraffe might want to lap up water from a nearby lake. The giraffe would spread its forelegs and bend its neck below body level to drink the water. If you have ever been upside down for any period of time, then you know the feeling of blood rushing to your head. In the same way, the giraffe’s heart is so large and powerful that it normally would shoot a hefty amount of blood into the brain, causing a possibly fatal increase of blood pressure in the giraffe’s head. This does not happen, though, because of specialized valves contained within the vessels of the giraffe’s neck. These valves work to block the blood being pumped to the brain during the giraffe’s water break. Furthermore, if the giraffe were to see a predator and try to run from it just after bending over, you would expect it to pass out because its blood pressure had dropped so low. Once again, however, the same network of valves saves the giraffe by routing the blood in a way that maintains a constant blood pressure. Where did these valves come from, and how did they evolve? Furthermore, how did they evolve simultaneously with the heart and neck? Evolution has no answers.

Many hospitals use what are known as gravity suits. These ensembles prevent fluid retention (edema) in the lower extremities. The giraffe has a built-in antigravity suit that prevents blood pooling and edema. The two portions of the giraffe’s body that help in the function of this system are its tough skin and its fascia (connecting tissue). So, in order to survive, the giraffe must have evolved a longer neck, a heart to push blood up the neck, special valves to maintain its blood pressure, and an antigravity suit to resist the extreme pressure that is routinely produced. Did these structures come about merely by coincidence?

The list of what must have evolved “in sync” with the rest of the giraffe’s anatomy is lengthy and impressive. Evolutionist Robert Wesson stated in his book, Beyond Natural Selection:

The protogiraffe had not only to lengthen neck vertebra (fixed at seven in mammals) but to make any concurrent modifications: the head, difficult to sustain atop the long neck, became relatively smaller…. Big lungs were necessary to compensate for breathing through a tube 10 feet long; many muscles, tendons, and bones had to be modified harmoniously; the forelegs were lengthened with corresponding restructuring of the frame; and many reflexes had to be reshaped (1991, p. 226, parenthetical item in orig.).

As Wesson noted, these processes had to come into existence at the same time! The head had to be miniaturized in order to rest on the top of a 15-foot giant; the giraffe’s lungs are eight times the size of an average human’s in order for it to breathe through a ten-foot trachea; and every structural support must reshape to match the new form of the neck. Any statistician (or physiologist) would balk at the probability of a creature evolving these extreme characteristics.

EVOLUTION VERSUS THE GIRAFFE

Evolutionists still try to explain the giraffe via natural selection. Foster suggested that “evolution has modified the giraffe’s anatomy to allow this stretched-version mammal to function” (1977, 152[3]:409). Could this really be an animal that has evolved? Evolution suggests that nature would have “selected” these long-necked mutants over those that could not reach higher foliage (see Corliss, p. 106). On the surface, this almost seems plausible. But consider the following point. Male giraffes are noticeably taller than their female counterparts. The male, who is around two feet taller, would survive, while the shorter females would die off, and yet you still see both males and females alive today. If we rely on Darwinian evolution, then there can be no explanation for this fact. Furthermore, evolutionists have been waiting for years to find the fossils that could give testament to the evolution of the giraffe. But these fossils remain as yet undiscovered (and, creationists say, are non-existent). Francis Hitching mentioned: “There are no intermediate fossils showing a quarter-length giraffe neck, for instance” (1982, p. 30). The most likely conclusion must inexorably lead away from evolution.

The giraffe’s coordinated innovations are a testament to design in the animal kingdom. From its long neck to its antigravity-suit skin, the giraffe’s diverse nature flouts the theory of evolution, and embraces the opposite concept—design.

REFERENCES

Corliss, William R. (1995), Biological Anomalies: Mammals I (Glen Arm, MD: The Sourcebook Project).

Hitching, Francis (1982), The Neck of the Giraffe (New York: Ticknor and Fields).

Foster, Bristol (1977), “Africa’s Gentle Giants,” National Geographic, 152[3]:402-417, September.

Wesson, Robert (1991), Beyond Natural Selection (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).



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