Fact Check

Do Giraffes Have the Same Number of Neck Bones as Humans?

As the tallest land animal, a giraffe's legs alone stand taller than the height of the average human being.

Published Jan 3, 2024

 (Pixabay/Public Domain)
Image Via Pixabay/Public Domain
Claim:
Giraffes have the same number of neck bones as humans.
Context

Though both giraffes and humans have the same number of individual neck bones (known as vertebrae), the two species also have size and structural differences.

Just like humans, giraffes are said to have seven bones in their neck, according to social media posts like the one below, shared to Reddit in 2021:

TIL that giraffes have the same number of neck bones (seven) as humans.
byu/brock_lee intodayilearned

Despite an astonishingly large height difference overall – the average U.S. man stands at 5 fee, 9 inches tall, measuring shorter than a giraffe’s typically 6-foot-long legs – this claim is true. Both giraffes and humans have seven neck bones known as the cervical vertebrae.

“Even though the neck of a giraffe can be eight feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds, they only have seven neck vertebrae – the same number of neck bones that humans have! But unlike our vertebrae, each of theirs can be up to 10 inches long,” wrote the Cleveland Zoological Society in a post published on March 2, 2021.

We should note, however, that although both giraffes and humans have the same number of vertebrae, there are differences in bone size and anatomy.

Humans and giraffes alike have seven individual bones that make up the cervical portion of the spine. These are numbered from one to seven – C1 through C7. However, there are significant size and anatomical differences between the two species' neck structures.

(Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons/NIH)

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons/NIH

As BBC Earth wrote in an Instagram post on Sept. 23, 2023, “Human neck bones are half an inch tall, whereas giraffe neck bones are ten inches tall!” Similarly, a study published in June 2023 that examined the evolutionary history of giraffes confirmed that giraffes have seven cervical vertebrae, but with an average length of each vertebra being nearly 12 inches.

Additionally, research shows that the musculoskeletal structure around the “neck-trunk unction of the giraffe” is modified, showing an eighth vertebra (first thoracic vertebrae) that is highly mobile like the cervical vertebrae in the neck … suggesting that this “first thoracic vertebra, normally part of the body, functions as part of the neck in the giraffe.”

Sources

FastStats. 1 Oct. 2023, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/body-measurements.htm.

Giraffe | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/giraffe. Accessed 28 Dec. 2023.

“Giraffe Neck Is Longer than Thought.” The University of Tokyo, https://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/focus/en/articles/a_00458.html. Accessed 28 Dec. 2023.

Gunji, Megu, and Hideki Endo. “Functional Cervicothoracic Boundary Modified by Anatomical Shifts in the Neck of Giraffes.” Royal Society Open Science, vol. 3, no. 2, Feb. 2016, p. 150604. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.150604.

---. “Functional Cervicothoracic Boundary Modified by Anatomical Shifts in the Neck of Giraffes.” Royal Society Open Science, vol. 3, no. 2, Feb. 2016, p. 150604. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.150604.

How Is a Mouse like a Giraffe? https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-is-a-mouse-like-a-giraffe.html. Accessed 28 Dec. 2023.

Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/CxiXIo1KGN2/. Accessed 28 Dec. 2023.

Solounias, N. “The Remarkable Anatomy of the Giraffe’s Neck.” Journal of Zoology, vol. 247, no. 2, Feb. 1999, pp. 257–68. Cambridge University Press, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1999.tb00989.x.

---. “The Remarkable Anatomy of the Giraffe’s Neck.” Journal of Zoology, vol. 247, no. 2, Feb. 1999, pp. 257–68. Cambridge University Press, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1999.tb00989.x.

Vertebra, Cervical (Neck): MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia Image. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/1772.htm. Accessed 28 Dec. 2023.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.

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