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Gravitational haemodynamics and oedema prevention in the giraffe


Because it is so tall, the giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, provides an important animal model for investigating adaptive mechanisms to orthostatic (gravitational) pressure changes. Previous physiological studies of the giraffe have concentrated on arterial blood pressures in the heart and neck1–3. Briefly, these investigations revealed that arterial pressure near the giraffe heart is about twice that in humans, to provide more normal blood pressure and per-fusion to the brain. Another important question is that of how giraffes avoid pooling of blood and tissue fluid (oedema) in dependent tissues of their extremities. As monitored by radiotelemetry, the blood and tissue fluid pressures that govern transcapillary exchange vary greatly with exercise. These pressures, combined with a tight skin layer, move fluid upward against gravity. Other mechanisms that prevent oedema include precapillary vasoconstric-tion and low permeability of capillaries to plasma proteins.

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Hargens, A., Millard, R., Pettersson, K. et al. Gravitational haemodynamics and oedema prevention in the giraffe. Nature 329, 59–60 (1987).

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