The Remarkable Cardiovascular System of Giraffes

Gravity affects the physiology of many animals, and the effect is, for good reason, most pronounced in tall species. The physiology—in particular, cardiovascular function—of giraffes has therefore captivated the interest of physiologists for centuries. Several studies document high mean arterial blood pressure of giraffes of about 200 mm Hg. This appears necessary to establish a cerebral perfusion pressure on the order of 100mmHg at the cranial end of the carotid arteries. Here, we discuss the unique characteristics of blood vessels, the heart, and the kidney of giraffes and how these functional and structural adaptations are related to very high blood pressure. We also discuss how the cerebral circulation of giraffes is established and what we know about how the blood flow and arterial and venous pressures in giraffes change when they stop to drink and subsequently lift their heads 5–6 m in one sweeping movement.

Last Updated
February 15, 2021