Why on Earth? Giraffe

Why is this giraffe carrying an animal bone in its mouth?

Answer: Osteophagia!

Osteophagia is the behavior of consuming bones and it most often performed by those animals we would least expect, herbivores or plant-eating animals. Animals require many minerals to stay healthy, such as calcium, phosphorous, sodium, iron, copper, and selenium. Animals consuming only plants may have a hard time maintaining efficient levels of phosphorous. Other animals engage in this practice, including: tortoises, cattle, grizzly bears, and even squirrels!

Fossil evidence suggests that herbivores that lived in the past may have also exhibited osteophagia, especially ungulatesUngulates are hoofed animals that can run or walk long distances due to their special adaptations. Giraffes, horses, hippos, goats, camels, cows, and sheep are examples of ungulates. 

Many different animals supplement their diets by eating certain things we wouldn’t expect. For example, elephants have been known to practice geophagy or eating soil or clay to increase their sodium levels.

Photo source: http://www.astepahead.es/a-cannibal-in-etosha/

Osteophagia behavior of giraffe

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