The animal kingdom is incredibly diverse and full of weird and wonderful creatures. Some of these animals are downright baffling, and others have developed specific attributes that help them fend for themselves and navigate the world.
Some animals have long necks to help them access scarce food sources. For these creatures, like giraffes, their long necks allow them to survive in harsh climates. Although graceful giraffes are the most famous animal with long necks, there are plenty of others whose long necks have helped them out in several ways.
These animals come from all over the world and represent a variety of different mammals and reptiles. Although most creatures developed long necks to forage for food, they might also need them to thermoregulate in hot climates and protect themselves from predators.
The giraffe is the most famous long-necked animal. Their necks can stretch up to six full feet, which is longer than your average man is tall. These graceful creatures live all over Eastern and Southern Africa, in regions where there generally isn’t that much food. In these parts of the world, droughts happen often, and creatures have to scavenge for limited food supplies.
With their long necks, giraffes have a substantial competitive advantage. They can reach the loftier parts of trees and feast on leaves to their heart’s content. Giraffes also use their necks to defend their territory. Male giraffes spar with each other over territory, food, and potential mates by swinging their necks around and headbutting each other.
Of course, the stronger and longer the neck, the more luck the animal will have in securing a mate or scooping up a new piece of territory.
Alpacas are camelids that live predominantly in South America. These creatures are heavily prized for their abundant fur and can be a source of meat as well. Alpacas live in the high regions of the Andes Mountains, where their heavy coats of fur protect them from unpredictable weather and frosty temperatures.
As with giraffes, alpacas use their long necks to get vegetation from the tops of trees. In addition to having long necks, they also have relatively long legs, which enable them to nimbly navigate mountains and tower above any other creatures. These animals have an interesting relationship with humans. They are semi-domesticated and can even protect herds of sheep.
Since alpacas are gentle animals, they tend to be easy prey for some of the wilder creatures in the Andes. Fortunately, their necks can save the day again. Alpacas can spot predators like the Andean Speckled Bear and puma from their lofty perches and get away in time.
Gerenuks are adorable creatures that look just like they were plucked out of a fairy tale. These long-necked gazelles also go by the name “Waller’s gazelle,” although gerenuk is a much more common moniker. Gerenuk translates to “giraffe-necked” in Somali and is a very apt description for these creatures. They live predominantly in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Gerenuks’ long necks allow them access to leaves and food at the tops of trees, putting them at a serious competitive advantage as opposed to other antelopes and gazelles. Another thing that works to their advantage is their broad diet. They consume 80 species of plants, including leaves, fruit, and flowers, and since so much of their diet is water-dense, they can last for long periods of time in deserts.
They also stand on two legs to eat, using their front legs to yank down elusive branches. These intelligent creatures are highly adaptable, resilient, and also vocal. They emit a loud buzzing sound when they’re in danger and whistling or bleating to communicate fear or anger.
Perhaps the best thing that Arabian camels are known for is their ability to last nearly two weeks without having a single sip of water. Thanks to those extraordinary humps, camels can carry around their own water supply for up to ten days. These animals are the ultimate desert-dwellers, and people have been domesticating or semi-domesticating them for thousands of years.
Arabian camels live predominantly in arid and desert countries. They’re widespread in the Middle East, Sahara Desert, and countries like Afghanistan. They tend to be quite large, growing up to between seven and ten feet tall. With long legs, massive bodies, and long necks, Arabian camels can, and do, consume just about any vegetation that they come across.
Their long necks let them crouch down and get vegetation off the ground, as well as up in the trees. These creatures won the evolutionary lottery; they can sustain themselves without regular water, eat just about anything they want, and are large enough to ward off most predators.
Kimberley Rock Monitor Lizard
The Kimberley Rock Monitor Lizard, also known as Glauert’s Monitor, is a long-necked lizard that you can find in the rockier regions of Western and Northern Australia. With long necks and tails, these animals can deftly navigate just about any rock face or formation, but their preferred habitat is actually humid forest. They also prefer hotter temperatures of at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
They tend to pair up to forage, and their long necks help them access remote leaves and tree foliage. Although there are plenty of Kimberley Rock Monitor Lizards in the wild, plenty of them are in captivity. These monitor lizards are popular pets, although they need ideal conditions to thrive and are not suitable for novice lizard owners.
Vicunas are another type of South American camelids, but unlike alpacas or llamas, they are not domesticated or semi-domesticated. Vicunas are wild creatures who live in the far reaches of the Andes and are prized for their fur. Vicuna fur is exceptionally valuable, warm, and highly sought after.
Vicunas have a special place in Andean and Incan lore, and their wool was only worn by royalty. Today, if you have the cash, you can buy yourself a vicuna sweater and live like an ancient king. Like most camelids, vicunas have exceptionally long necks, which allow them to forage for food in taller trees. Also, like alpacas, they use their considerable height to spot predators.
If you travel to South America, there’s a good chance that you’ll come across a llama or alpaca on your travels. Vicunas are much harder to spot, so consider yourself very lucky if you see one of these graceful high-altitude creatures.
Eastern Snake-Neck Turtle
The eastern snake-neck turtle is one of the only carnivorous species on our list. These reptiles use their considerable necks to scout for fish, crustaceans, and insects in their native Australia. They are most common in the south-eastern parts of Australia, predominantly New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. They have the longest necks of any turtle on the planet, measuring up to five or six inches long, or half the length of their bodies.
Female eastern snake-neck turtles usually have longer necks than males. While their necks are precious for foraging for food, they do put the turtles at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to defending themselves. Unlike many varieties of turtles, eastern snake-neck turtles can’t pull their necks and heads all of the way back into their shells. They turn their heads sideways to retreat instead.
Eastern snake-neck turtles are expert hunters, using their long necks to scope out their prey before snapping it up patiently. Then, like many adept predators, they let their prey come close to them before launching in for the kill.
Llamas are perhaps the most well-known and popular camelid to come out of South America. They are also very evenly distributed over much of the continent and far more prolific than their cousins; alpacas and vicunas. You can find them in Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. They tend to be larger than alpacas and vicunas too, measuring close to six feet tall. Their necks make up the majority of their bodies at roughly four feet long.
Llamas were domesticated by the ancient Incans, who used them to build some of their most significant cities, including Machu Picchu. These hearty animals were capable of towing large amounts of soil and stones and agile enough to traverse mountain passages. We can thank the humble llama for giving us some of South America’s most remarkable relics, many of which stand today.
Since llamas graze on ground vegetation, their long necks allow them to eat while they stand. This will enable them to get away from predators quickly and take a lot of stress off their legs and knees.
Long-necked animals tend to be a lot more evolutionarily advanced than their shorter-necked relatives. Long necks allow creatures of all kinds to hunt and forage effectively, giving them access to spaces that other animals can’t reach. Long necks are also practical self-defense tools and can help animals regulate their body heat.
Since many long-necked animals are herbivores, their considerable height allows them to spot predators and flee. There are plenty of advantages to having a long neck.