When watching a giraffe, it is fascinating to know that there are essentially no other creatures with long necks similar to giraffes – except maybe dinosaurs with long necks. They seem to have much in common, yet they lived in entirely different time periods. Giraffes live mostly in their native Africa. The fossils of long neck sauropods have been found worldwide, including the present-day continents of North America, South America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia. It makes me wonder, are giraffes related to long-neck dinosaurs?
As a general rule, giraffes and dinosaurs are not related, and giraffes did not descend from Brachiosaurus. Giraffes are gigantic mammals, while Brachiosaurus were titanic reptiles. Their plant-eating evolution equipped the distinctly modern and ancient species with long necks.
When on an African safari, you will likely see at some point herds of giraffes feeding on tall treetops. It was like millions of years ago when the great long-necked titanosaurs were stomping around in herds and feeding on tall prehistoric treetops. It must have been a fascinating sight.
Let’s take a deeper look at giraffes and sauropods, looking to understand what makes them different and also if there are any clear similarities.
Read on to find out!
Why Do Giraffes Look Like Dinosaurs?
Giraffes look like sauropod dinosaurs because they are adapted to browse on grass and treetops. Thus, they have long necks like ancient, long-neck, herbivorous dinosaurs.
Giraffes belong to the deer and moose family. Its distant relative was a gigantic moose that had a long neck. The neck was adapted for browsing and grazing.
Samotherium major existed seven million years ago and had a 3.3-foot neck.
Paleontologists believe the giraffes evolved from its relative over a long period. The neck stretched outwards to reach out for food. Gradually, the neck became significant for fights and mating duels.
Thus, the species bred selectively for longer necks.
The Giraffidae is unlike other families, and the majority of its members went extinct. They were all ruminant artiodactyls. The only surviving members are African giraffes and Okapis. (Source)
Another reason why people think giraffes resemble brachiosaurids is the four-legged stance. Brachiosaurid legs were longer than their rear legs, giving them a giraffe-like stance.
Long-neck dinosaurs existed 150 million years ago. At that time, the Giraffidae species had not evolved from the early mammals. Apart from the time difference, sauropods had significantly more vertebrae than modern giraffes.
The giraffe neck comprises just seven vertebrae. Moreover, giraffes have short tails, whereas sauropods’ tails grew long enough to act as weapons.
Did you know that humans and giraffes have seven neck vertebrae? Giraffe neck bones grew longer but did not consolidate from numerous, shorter vertebrae. Giraffes are more closely related to people than dinosaurs.
What Is The Tallest Dinosaur?
The tallest dinosaurs were among the Brachiosaurid group of sauropods. On top of their long front legs, these top-browsers had extensive vertical necks. Thus, they could reach treetops and also grass on bottom bushes.
The most common Brachiosaurid was Brachiosaurus, which was 44.3 feet long on average. Other species like Sauroposeidon stretched to 60.7 feet in length.
YouTube Video about Sauropods – The Largest Land Animals of All Time
In the Jurassic era, sauropods dominated herbivorous niches all over the world. They developed pillar-like feet to support their massive sizes and robust hearts to pump blood along their long necks.
These plant-eaters were successful in their regions and were abundant. However, predatory species were smaller and more numerous. Most predators had to hunt long-neck dinosaurs in packs.
The prime of sauropods was during the Mesozoic era (66-250 million years ago). Sauropods were a group of four-legged, herbivorous dinosaurs. Their tails and necks were significantly long relative to their body mass. (Source)
Brachiosaurus was considered the biggest dinosaur of all time back in 1903. This North American titan is, however, among the most famous giants in all humanity.
Brachiosaurus lived in the Late Jurassic, and its Fossils of a juvenile Brachiosaurus indicate it stretched to a length of 75.5 feet. Thus, adults could have been much larger.
However, paleontologists found evidence of long-neck dinosaurs that were much larger than the Brachiosaurus.
Some of the tallest, longest titanosaurs include:
- Argentinosaurus (121-130 feet)
- Patagotitan mayorum (122 feet)
- Paralititan stromeri (82-100 Feet)
- Dreadnoghtus (85 feet)
- Austroposeidon (82 feet)
The sheer size of these gigantic herbivores dissuaded prey from attacking. They had different defense mechanisms, but they all included towering over predators. They probably made deep growls to scare off carnivores as they displayed their size.
Some stood on their twos when in defensive mode. Some stamped at predators and opponents in displace of dominance. Some cracked their long tails like whips to fend off threats.
Giraffe vs. Brachiosaurus
Giraffes and Brachiosaurus resemble each other to some extent. They are both quadrupeds that tower over other species of their time. Their front legs are longer than their hind legs, which boosts their standing height.
Scientists ranked Brachiosaurus as the biggest dinosaur ever found before discovering the Tanzanian Giraffatitan. Both brachiosaurids are popularly termed giraffe-like dinosaurs. Giraffatitan is significantly bigger than Brachiosaurus. (Source)
Another reason for the superficial physical resemblance of Brachiosaurus and giraffes is their long necks. Giraffes have seven elongated vertebrae for their long neck. In contrast, Brachiosaurus had way more vertebrae for its titanic neck.
With limited vertebrae, giraffe necks stretch to six feet, while Brachiosaurus necks grew over 30 feet.
Brachiosaurus fed to treetops, cutting vegetation matter with chisel-shaped teeth and gulping everything whole. They could have also swallowed small stones to aid digestion. They had muscular stomachs that were effective because of gastric milling action. (Source)
In contrast, giraffes are ruminants that chew the cud. Giraffes mostly chew on leaves, but they do reach for fruits and grass too. Unlike Brachiosaurus, these modern herbivores don’t have sharp, chisel-like teeth. They have a dental pad and hardy molars for chewing leaves and cud.
Giraffes have four stomachs, and they are always chewing. Thus, they get ample nutrition from grazing and browsing. (Source)
Unlike Brachiosaurus, giraffes are notorious for scavenging dry bones. These herbivores sustain their robust skeleton with calcium and iron in bones. Don’t be surprised to find a giraffe feasting on bony carcasses around them.
In terms of habitation, giraffes dwell on dry savannahs, while sauropods were mostly swamp dwellers. Most sauropod fossils resurface from ancient coastal flood plains.
Moreover, these flood plains preserved the footprints of long-neck dinosaurs impeccably. Brachiosaurus was even suspected to be a swamp amphibian, but fossil evidence proved otherwise. These dinosaurs were adapted to cross deep swamps, but giraffes could get fatally trapped in such environments.
It’s not surprising that giraffes and long-neck dinosaurs are often mistaken for being related to each other. There is, after all, the superficial resemblance of their height and length in common. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that these two animals have many differences between them: they don’t share any teeth types or chewing methods; they eat different foods; their habitats differ greatly from one another, etc.
The only thing they have in common is the size of their necks! As we have discussed above, giraffes and dinosaurs had different adaptations for long necks, and they achieved the same goal in different ways.
Given the distribution of sauropods worldwide, wouldn’t it have been an exciting safari if we could go back in time and see herds of long-neck sauropods roaming the countryside?