Giraffe Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Giraffes have many adaptations that help them live in their natural habitat. This lesson will teach you about some of these cool features and why they are important for a giraffe's survival.

What a Long Neck You Have!

Imagine coming home from school and being hungry. You look for something to eat and see your favorite snack on top of the highest shelf in the kitchen. You search everywhere for something to stand on so you can reach it, but you're out of luck. Your snack is too high and just out of reach.

You might not have this problem if you were a giraffe. Giraffes have adaptations, or characteristics that help them survive in their natural habitat. And one of those adaptations is a very long neck. Without that neck, giraffes would be in the same situation you are with your snack.

Although they'll eat plants and shrubs closer to the ground, giraffes have a favorite snack: acacia tree leaves. But you can't eat leaves in tall trees if you can't reach them. Fortunately, giraffes' necks are the perfect length to reach those lip-smacking leaves!

This giraffe is about to eat leaves from an acacia tree.
Giraffe near acacia tree

But their necks aren't just good for reaching tasty treats. They also help keep giraffes from becoming a mid-afternoon snack for other animals, like hungry lions. Because their heads sit up so high on their stretched out necks, giraffes can see a long way in all directions. This makes them harder to sneak up on.

A Twisty Tongue

Giraffes also have long, prehensile tongues, which means that the giraffe's tongue can twist, wrap around and grab things. Their tongue can be nearly twenty inches long, which is just a little shorter than two footballs lined up point to point.

A giraffe's tongue isn't just long and acrobatic. It also has a thick top, which is helpful for dealing with the acacia trees' long, sharp thorns. The tongue can snake around and dodge those spikes to get to the leafy snacks they like to munch on.

Giraffes have dark, prehensile tongues.
Dark prehensile tongue

And you might also notice that a giraffe's tongue is a blackish, bluish purple color on top and pink underneath. Scientists think that dark color acts like sunscreen to protect its tongue from getting a sunburn while it eats.

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