Reseachers from the New York Institute of Technology have finally reconstructed the fossilized neck of a Samotherium major—a genus of giraffe that is more or less its indirect predecessor—and in tandem have put together some key clues regarding how giraffes became the long-necked creatures as we now know them.
The NYIT research team concluded from its findings, which were published in a piece in the journal Royal Society Open Science, that the Samotherium was more or less a medial genus between the giraffe and the okapi, a member of the giraffid family who has a much shorter neck and lines that resemble the same patterning as a zebra.
To do this, the scientists reconstructed what a Samotherium neck would have looked like from an array of fossils discovered on the Grecian island of Samos, which were then compared with the vertebrae of a modern-day okapi and giraffe, respectively. They found that the neck of the S. major was a scant meter, compared with that of the giraffe's, which was around 2 meters, about 6.5 feet. When compared with the okapi, however, the neck proved to be longer than the okapi's reconstructed vertebrae, which lent the team's hypothesis some serious cred. They also noted several examples of vertebral changes, including the elongation of the back end of each of the neck bones as well as changes scientists had previously noted on the front of each bone.
In addition to their length-related theory, the NYIT researchers also noted that the sixth vertebrae for both the okapi and the Samotherium had a ridge that ran across the bone, which seemed to signify a common ancestor, though no such indentation was present on the skeleton of the giraffe.