Can you imagine being a veterinarian treating a giraffe with a sore throat? It must be a challenging task. And have you ever wondered how long it takes giraffe moms to make scarves for their babies before winter arrives?
Perhaps that’s why many giraffes live in warm areas. Staying away from colds and sore throats is probably a priority when your neck is so long. Speaking of long necks, do you think giraffes have tongues that are as long as their necks?
Well, not exactly! However, giraffes are famous for having long tongues. Their tongues are also known for having a dark black, blue, or purple color. So, what’s the deal with giraffe tongues?
Despite a giraffe’s neck being able to stretch up to six feet long, their tongues usually measure around 18-20 inches. But why does a giraffe need such a long tongue? If you loved eating acacia tree leaves like giraffes do, then you would understand.
The tasty leaves of the acacia tree are protected by sharp thorns. The long tongue of the giraffe allows it to reach the highest and most delicious leaves while avoiding the thorns. Additionally, the giraffe’s tongue has a thick and tough layer that protects it from being cut by the thorns. If a giraffe’s tongue does get cut, its extra-thick saliva has antiseptic properties that aid in quick healing.
Regarding the dark color of their tongue, some experts believe it serves a purpose. Since giraffes spend up to 12 hours a day eating, the dark color of their tongue might protect it from the Sun’s harmful rays, preventing sunburn!
You might wonder why giraffes don’t choose to eat leaves from other trees. The tastiest acacia leaves usually grow high on the tree, making them easily accessible to giraffes but out of reach for many other animals. Therefore, giraffes face less competition for acacia leaves.
Acacia leaves are also a vital source of water for giraffes. Due to their high moisture content, consuming up to 75 pounds of acacia leaves in a day provides giraffes with a significant portion of the water they need to survive. In fact, if giraffes have enough acacia leaves to eat, they can go without drinking water for several days.
This is crucial because drinking water from a river or lake is dangerous for giraffes. When a giraffe drinks, it must spread its legs widely and lower its head to the ground. This position leaves it vulnerable to predators. Hence, most giraffes prefer to obtain as much water as possible from acacia leaves.
Try It Out
If you’re interested in learning more about giraffes, take a step further. Explore the following activities with a friend or family member:
- Can you compare the length of your tongue to that of a giraffe? Let’s assume that your tongue is shorter! But how much shorter is it? Ask an adult friend or family member to help you measure the length of your tongue. After measuring, compare the length of your tongue to the average length of a giraffe’s tongue. If possible, calculate the percentage by which a giraffe’s tongue is longer.
- If you have ever seen a picture of a giraffe’s tongue, you probably know that it is a dark blue or purple color. What color is your tongue? Request an adult friend or family member to take you to the store and buy a dark blue or purple lollipop that will make your tongue darker when you eat it. Enjoy pretending to be a giraffe!
- Interested in observing giraffes in action? Watch National Geographic’s Lives of Giraffes video online. Take note of at least three facts you learn from the video and share them with your friends and family members.