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A giraffe has 7 vertebrae in its neck, just like us.

This is no tall tale. When it comes to cervical vertebrae, or the bones that make up the neck, mammals are created equal. “No matter their size, the number of vertebrae is constant,” says Justin Adams, a paleontologist at Monash University in Australia. “The only exceptions are sloths, which can have as many as 10, and manatees, which have six instead of seven.” It’s a Darwinian thing—sort of. “It is hypothesized that the number of neck vertebrae is an example of a ‘constraint’ in evolution,” adds Adams. While the vertebra count is reliably consistent, size can vary greatly. Each vertebra in a giraffe’s neck measures about 10 inches in length, which explains why you’ll never beat our spotted friend in a photo finish.


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