The extant giraffes are an iconic part of the African biota, their large size and elongate legs and neck providing an unmistakable silhouette against the African landscape. Their close relatives, the okapis, were among the latest of the large terrestrial mammals to be documented scientifically and are similarly iconic in terms of their rarity and cryptic nature. Giraffes are characterized by skin-covered ossicones attached to the frontals; only male okapis have ossicones, from which the skin may be worn off the distal portions in mature specimens. The nature of their relationship to each other and to the somewhat bewildering variety of African fossil pecorans is still a matter of debate. The origins of the Giraffoidea remain uncertain although Janis and Scott (1987) suggested they could have originated from the Gelocidae before the early Miocene. The Giraffoidea have been variously allied with the Bovoidea and/or Cervoidea, but Hernández Fernández and Vrba (2005) construe them as a sister group of a clade containing both the Bovidae and Cervidae and suggest they are conceivably most closely related to the antilocaprids. This chapter describes the systematic paleontology of Giraffoidea.
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