Jean-Baptiste Lamarck on the Evolution of the Giraffe

“It is interesting to observe the result of habit in the peculiar shape and size of the giraffe (Camelo-pardalis): this animal, the largest of mammals, is known to live in the interior of Africa in places where the soil is nearly always arid and barren, so that it is obliged to browse on the leaves of trees and make a constant effort to reach them. From this habit long maintained in all its race, it has resulted that the animal’s fore-legs have become longer than its hind legs, and that its neck is lengthened to such a degree that the giraffe, without standing on its hind legs, attains a height of six metres.”

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Philosophie Zoologique pt. 1 ch. 7 (1809)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

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