Observations on the giraffe central nervous system related to the corticospinal tract, motor cortex and spinal cord: what difference does a long neck make?

The mammalian corticospinal tract is known to contain axons that travel from the cerebral cortex to various levels of the spinal cord and its main function is thought to be the mediation of voluntary movement. The current study describes neuroanatomy related to the corticospinal tract of the giraffe. This animal presents a specific morphology that may present challenges to this neural pathway in terms of the metabolism required for correct functioning and maintenance of potentially very long axons. The spinal cord of the giraffe can be up to 2.6 m long and forms the conus medullaris at the level of the sacral vertebrae. Primary motor cortex was found in a location typical of that of other ungulates, and the cytoarchitectonic appearance of this cortical area was similar to that previously reported for sheep, despite the potential distance that the axons emanating from the layer 5 gigantopyramidal neurons must travel. A typically mammalian dorsal striatopallidal complex was transected by a strongly coalesced internal capsule passing through to the pons and forming clearly identifiable but somewhat flattened (in a dorsoventral plane) pyramidal tracts. These tracts terminated in a spinal cord that exhibited no unique anatomical features related to its length. Our results, at least at the level of organization investigated herein, show that the corticospinal tract of the giraffe resembled that of a typical ungulate.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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