The Giraffe's Long Neck

From Evolutionary Fable to Whole Organism
Craig Holdrege

The Nature Institute, 2005
$15 (softcover, 104 pages)


This book provides a comprehensive picture of the giraffe's biology and ecology and also discusses the complex and controversial issue of its evolution. Since Craig Holdrege’s intention is to break through the strictures of narrowly confined conceptions of the giraffe and of evolution, neither card-carrying Darwinists nor Creationists will be happy with this book.

The debate concerning evolution, intelligent design, and creationism is framed largely by dogmatic points of view and highly polarized. The goethean-phenomenological approach applied in this book provides a fresh, open-ended perspective by acknowledging the facts that speak for evolution and evolutionary patterns, while avoiding pitfalls of the all-too-simple explanations of contemporary Darwinism.

Holdrege’s goal is not to explain the giraffe’s characteristics or to speculate about how they might have evolved, but rather to show how the giraffe's features are interconnected and integrated within the context of the whole animal. A remarkable picture of the giraffe emerges.

This timely book will be of interest to the general public and especially valuable to scientists and educators looking for fresh perspectives.

  1. Evolutionary Stories Falling Short (or Why Evolutionary Science Needs a Holistic Foundation) -- Lamarck and Darwin -- The Long Neck as Feeding Strategy -- Alternative Explanatory Attempts -- Does the Giraffe Really Have a Long Neck? -- The Unique Form of the Giraffe
  2. A First Context — The Giraffe as an Ungulate
    Soaring Upward
    Mediating Extremes: The Giraffe's Circulatory System

  3. The Giraffe in its World  

    In the Landscape
    Floating over the Plains
    Lofty-and at a Distance
    The Developing Giraffe
    Feeding Ecology
    The Intertwined Existence of Acacia and Giraffe
    Summing Up

  4. The Giraffe and Evolution

    Thinking About Evolution
    Okapi and Giraffe
    Fossil Giraffids
    A Temporal Pattern of Development
    An Overriding Morphological Pattern 
    The Ecological Perspective 
    Nested Contexts - Back to the Whole Organism