The Ex-Extinct Okapi

Posted: December 30, 2011 in Biology Related, Fossil Related
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Once upon a time there was an animal known as Palaeotragus. Palaeotragus had an anatomy somewhat similar to that of a giraffe but it had more of a horse’s body and a regular sized neck. It was considered to be the giraffe’s extinct ancestor, the ancestor from which the giraffe evolved.[1] This all changed when Palaeotragus were found alive and well in Africa in 1901.[2] They were known as Okapi, and thus Palaeotragus was not extinct after all.


How annoying is it when animals we believe to be extinct,  in which we link to modern animals as “ancient ancestors,” turn up alive, and unchanged for that matter… geez. The fact that the Okapi was alive and well proved to cause a dilemma in the evolutionary framework, which again would need to be revised. Since Palaeotragus was now the alive Okapi it could not be considered the ancestor for the giraffe, which currently has no known (conclusive) ancestor in the fossil record from which it evolved.[3] Even worse, the Okapi had not evolved when analyzing its fossil records dating back to 15 million years ago.[4] It was one of many discovered living fossils. This of course lead to many questions: From what animal did the giraffe evolve? Why did the Okapi not evolve over 15 million years? But that was not the end of the problems for evolution theory.

Okapi have also proved to be a set back for the concept of how the giraffe’s neck evolved to be so large. One popular theory was that after years of stretching its neck to reach higher trees for food, the giraffe eventually evolved a longer neck. The Okapi however exhibits this same behavior stretching to reach higher trees yet its neck remains short when looking back to the fossil record for millions of years.[5] This proved that evolution is not driven by repetitive instances of use and non-use.[6]

An example of incorrect depictions of giraffe neck evolution assumptions that still appear in textbooks to this day.

Thanks to the sudden discovery of Okapi, many facets of evolution can be challenged. There are many other animals and living fossils like the Okapi which prove to be thorns in the side as well for evolutionists. But considering there are 15,000 Okapi roaming wild in the Congoat the present time,[7] the Okapi is a wonderful example of the Bible’s account of animals created separately as different “kinds.”

[1] Bergman, J., (2002) “The Giraffe’s Neck: Another Icon of Evolution Falls,” Creation Journal, (16)1, pp. 124.

[2] Fiegl, A., (October 2011) “The Elusive Okapi,” National Geographic, pp. 23.

[3] Bergman, J., (2002) “The Giraffe’s Neck: Another Icon of Evolution Falls,” Creation Journal, (16)1, pp. 124.

[4] Sherr, L., (1997) Tall Blondes; A Book About Giraffes, Andrews McMeel, Kansas City, KS, pp. 42.

[5] Bergman, J., (2002) “The Giraffe’s Neck: Another Icon of Evolution Falls,” Creation Journal, (16)1, pp. 122.

[6] Whitfield, P., (1993) The Natural History of Evolution, Doubleday,New York: NY, pp. 13.

[7] Fiegl, A., (October 2011) “The Elusive Okapi,” National Geographic, pp. 23.

  1. Moki says:

    the giraffe example is an example of the incorrect evolution before darwin’s time no animal sits around and stretches its neck out and passes that on to its offspring. and example is no matter how much my dad programs Im not going to have programming skills just because of that. the ancestor of the giraffe did have a shorter neck though. the shorter necked ancestors of giraffes where out competed for food with other animals of the same size the taller ones could reach more food that the others couldnt and so they were the ones that could have more babies that had longer necks just like their parents and could possibly have children just by chance with longer necks which could get even more food than the others and so the pattern continued until they could reach the top of the trees however okapi didnt need to reach so high because they live in the forest where there is lots of smaller shrubs that they can reach and being as tall as a giraffe would get them killed cause how would they run through a forest and be that massive? so the okapi stay small in the forest so they can travel through the forest and giraffes are tall because they live in open spaces with tall trees and okapi would die if it lived where giraffes do and a giraffe would die if it lived where an okapi does so they have to change to move into a different enviroment

    • matthew2262 says:

      Thank you for you comment Moki. Your example is an excellent case of natural selection favoring the giraffe’s more suitable ability to reach higher vegetation and thus remain competitive. Its a great example of micro-evolution. I likewise agree that the okapi lives in the jungle and the giraffe lives in the open savanna plains, where they’re each better equipped for their respective environments.

      The issue is the “possibly have children just by chance with longer necks,” part. Longer necked giraffes would already have to be present with short necked giraffes in order for natural selection to select for them. It is not nearly as simple as necks being longer than others. In order for the giraffe’s neck to reach the heights that it does and remain functional it requires the following: The neck vertebrate have ball and socket joints, an incredible cardiovascular system with valves in the blood vessels that remain open when the giraffe is standing, but close when it bends over to sip water preventing a lethal blood rush to the head. They have a high concentration of blood cells, tighter skin, and larger hearts to facilitate blood flow to the head. Lastly, the lungs of the giraffe are enlarged and breath slower to compensate for the long length of the trachea. So as you can see, it is not as simple as just having a longer neck. Heart, lungs, vertebrate and other anatomy have to be modified simultaneously in order for the long neck to work in the first place. And for that degree of change, the amount of random genetic mutations required, is not only un-likely, but would take longer than the time allotted for the giraffe to evolve to the changing landscape. Thus, it makes more sense to me that the environmental pressures that favored the long necked giraffe over shorter necked giraffes only work if long neck giraffes were already present.

      Thank you for your comment Moki.

  2. Bill Miller says:

    I am writing a book on evolution that addresses the exact issues that you state so well. May I use the photo of the opaki on this page in my book? It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your consideration.

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