The Giraffe’s Long Neck

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The Giraffe’s Long Neck: From Evolutionary Fable to Whole Organism

Nature Institute Perspectives #4

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.

Table of Contents:

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?

2. The Unique Form of the Giraffe

  • 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
  • “Necking”
  • 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

About the Author

Craig Holdrege, PhD,  is co-founder and director of The Nature Institute in Ghent, New York (, an organization dedicated to research and educational activities applying phenomenological, contextual methods. He is the author of numerous articles, monographs, and books, including Thinking Like a Plant: A Living Science for Life, and gives talks, leads workshops, and teaches courses nationally and internationally.

Additional information

Weight 10 oz
Dimensions 5.5 × .25 × 8.5 in




January 2005






Evolving Science Association


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