Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Dawkins gets inside the giraffe's neck

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerAugust 31, 2010 4:54 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

In the Tangled Bank, I wrote about how life has to evolve within constraints--constraints of physics, development, and history. One of the examples I used was the laryngeal nerve in giraffes. It travels down the giraffe's neck, takes a U turn, and then heads back up again. It seems ridiculous, but makes sense if you think about how it was laid down in fish without necks, and was then gradually modified--rather than re-engineered outright--as tetrapods grew necks, and then taken to surreal extremes in the long-necked giraffe. Youtube has an excellent snippet of Richard Dawkins hanging out with an anatomist as she dissects a giraffe's neck, to show what this remarkable evolutionary legacy really looks like. Warning: it's bloody, like all dissections. But it's worth the gore! (PS: Anybody know what show this came from?) (PPS: Turns out, it's from "Inside Nature's Giants." Wish I could see it from the States!)

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In