A comparison of postnatal arterial patterns in a growth series of giraffe (Artiodactyla: Giraffa camelopardalis)

Haley D. O'Brien, Paul M. Gignac, Tobin L. Hieronymus, Lawrence M. Witmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Nearly all living artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates) possess a derived cranial arterial pattern that is highly distinctive from most other mammals. Foremost among a suite of atypical arterial configurations is the functional and anatomical replacement of the internal carotid artery with an extensive, subdural arterial meshwork called the carotid rete. This interdigitating network branches from the maxillary artery and is housed within the cavernous venous sinus. As the cavernous sinus receives cooled blood draining from the nasal mucosa, heat rapidly dissipates across the high surface area of the rete to be carried away from the brain by the venous system. This combination yields one of the most effective mechanisms of selective brain cooling. Although arterial development begins from the same embryonic scaffolding typical of mammals, possession of a rete is typically accompanied by obliteration of the internal carotid artery. Among taxa with available ontogenetic data, the point at which the internal carotid obliterates is variable throughout development. In small-bodied artiodactyls, the internal carotid typically obliterates prior to parturition, but in larger species, the vessel may remain patent for several years. In this study, we use digital anatomical data collection methods to describe the cranial arterial patterns for a growth series of giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), from parturition to senescence. Giraffes, in particular, have unique cardiovascular demands and adaptations owing to their exceptional body form and may not adhere to previously documented stages of cranial arterial development. We find the carotid arterial system to be conserved between developmental stages and that obliteration of the giraffe internal carotid artery occurs prior to parturition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1696
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • Anatomical imaging
  • Arterial development
  • Artiodactyla
  • CT scan
  • Carotid rete
  • Giraffa camelopardalis
  • Ontogeny
  • Ruminant


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