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Extinction Watch: Giraffe, we’re talking about space walking


Thegiraffeis the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant. It has nine subspecies. Two-subspecies — Nubian andKordofan giraffe— are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ and two others — reticulated andMasai giraffe— are listed as ‘Endangered’ by theIUCN. The rest have been notified as vulnerable.

Illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing humanwildlife conflict, and civil unrest are all pushing the species towards extinction.

The giraffes’ height and excellent vision give them a wide view of the grasslands where they live. Some scientists believe that zebras, antelope, and wildebeests often congregate near giraffes to take advantage of their ability to see danger from a distance. The giraffe could be considered the early warning system of the African grasslands.

A giraffe’s heart is two feet long and weighs about 25 pounds. With gravity and a ton of weight sitting on four legs and hooves, why doesn’t the giraffe have ballooning ankles?

Baby giraffes tend to stand immediately after birth thanks to their rapidly inflating legs. When astronauts have a lengthy stay in space, their leg veins get weaker as the circulatory system of the legs don’t have to work as hard to pump the blood back up the body. NASA took the baby giraffe’s incredible natural adaptation and applied it to create the Lower Body Negative Pressure Process.

This device seals around the astronauts waist and applies vacuum pressure, rapidly expanding the leg veins and making blood rush into the legs and pelvic area. When this pressure is applied regularly, the astronaut’s leg veins remain as strong as they would on Earth!

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