(via ramalholore/Pixabay)

Giraffes—they’re just like us (but with more elegant necks and much longer tongues).

A new study by the University of Bristol suggests that, like some humans, the tallest living terrestrial animals prefer the company of friends during meals.

After nearly two years studying wild giraffes’ association patterns in Kenya, Zoe Muller and her team returned to England to analyze their data.

We already know these exquisite creatures tend to choose a mate from within their social circle. But it’s been unclear what drives those choices, and whether they apply to just some or all decisions.

Until now.

Using photo-identification to pinpoint individual giraffes and observe them in various habitats, the group discovered that many pairs would spend a high proportion of time together while searching for and eating food.

And they’re not just there for the conversation: Eating with selected friends can offer benefits to the individual.

“It is presumable that if you are with a ‘known’ partner, they may be reliable at alarming you if a predator is around,” lead study author Muller said in a statement. “Or it may be that you both share the same meal requirements, and so your foraging and eating behavior is complementary.”

These findings, according to the University of Bristol, shine a new light on the social preferences of the magnificent mammals, while providing insight into possible evolutionary mechanisms that shaped modern social groups.

“The dynamic nature of animal societies often hides multiple layers of complexity,” Muller said.

“Our work highlights the complex and dynamic nature of the giraffe social structure,” she continued, “which could have far-reaching implications for conservation, and guide the process of how giraffe populations are managed in the wild.”

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