Giraffe Browsing Acacia

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Giraffe Browsing On A Spiny Acacia
Its Long Prehensile Tongue Avoids The Spines

A giraffe browsing on the spiny, leafy branches of winter thorn (Acacia albida = Faidherbia albida), a South African species with long, sharp stipular spines. With its long neck the giraffe reaches high into the branches and carefully wraps its long, black prehensile tongue around the tender leaves, delicately removing the tasty morsels from between the spines. In fact, extensive browsing by giraffes can prune the understory branches of acacia trees. The characteristic flat-topped crowns of some species are genetically determined. For example, the widespread umbrella thorn (Acacia tortilis) on vast African savannahs is adapted to this environment. Apparently the exaggerated umbrella-shaped crown enables the trees to capture the maximum amount of sunlight, with the smallest of leaflets. [Animated gif courtesy of Microsoft Corporation.]

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