“Darwin’s primary interest [was] the modification of living forms under the selective influence of the environment”. Magnificent as his grasp of this aspect of biology is, it is counterbalanced by a curious lack of interest in the nature of the organism itself”. It is difficult to find in Darwin any really deep recognition of the life of the organism as a functioning whole which must be coordinated interiorly before it can function exteriorly.” Loren Eisely
Craig Holdrege over at The Nature Institute has a very interesting point:
I sometimes wonder why no one has maintained that the giraffe has, in reality, a short neck. If you observe a giraffe drinking or, as they occasionally do, grazing close to the ground, then you know what I mean (see Figure 4). Giraffes do not drink often, but when they do, they have to either splay their forelegs to the side or bend their forelegs strongly at the wrist joint. Both procedures take time and are awkward for the giraffe. But only in this way can it get the tip of its mouth down to the surface of the water. So, looked at from the perspective of drinking, the giraffe has a very short neck. Antelopes and zebras reach the ground without bending their legs, and the long-legged elephant has its trunk to compensate for its short neck. Only the giraffe (and its rain forest relative, the Okapi) have necks that are so short relative to their legs and chest that they must splay or bend their legs.
So why hasn’t the giraffe become famous for its manifestly short neck? Why don’t we have evolutionary hypotheses explaining how the giraffe got its short neck? It is because the giraffe’s neck, in other respects or from other perspectives, is long. No other mammal has such a long neck in absolute terms or in relation to the length of its torso. We all have seen (in life or in pictures) and been amazed by the standing giraffe, its long neck sailing skyward, in comparison to which the ungainly, short-necked drinking giraffe appears as exceptional, almost unfortunate behavior.
Whether the neck is long or short depends on our perspective and on the behavioral or anatomical context we are focusing on. We only understand the giraffe when we view it from various perspectives and let the giraffe show different aspects of its being. The moment we focus solely on the “long neck”– and on it solely in terms of a food-gathering or some other strategy– we’ve lost the reality of the giraffe.
read the whole essay here