Jens Randel Nyengaard

Anatomy of the python heart

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  • Stereological Research Laboratory
  • Center of Magnetic Resonance
  • Department of Biological Sciences, Zoophysiology
The hearts of all snakes and lizards consist of two atria and a single incompletely divided ventricle. In general, the squamate ventricle is subdivided into three chambers: cavum arteriosum (left), cavum venosum (medial) and cavum pulmonale (right). Although a similar division also applies to the heart of pythons, this family of snakes is unique amongst snakes in having intracardiac pressure separation. Here we provide a detailed anatomical description of the cardiac structures that confer this functional division. We measured the masses and volumes of the ventricular chambers, and we describe the gross morphology based on dissections of the heart from 13 ball pythons (Python regius) and one Burmese python (P. molurus). The cavum venosum is much reduced in pythons and constitutes approximately 10% of the cavum arteriosum. We suggest that shunts will always be less than 20%, while other studies conclude up to 50%. The high-pressure cavum arteriosum accounted for approximately 75% of the total ventricular mass, and was twice as dense as the low-pressure cavum pulmonale. The reptile ventricle has a core of spongious myocardium, but the three ventricular septa that separate the pulmonary and systemic chambers-the muscular ridge, the bulbuslamelle and the vertical septum-all had layers of compact myocardium. Pythons, however, have unique pads of connective tissue on the site of pressure separation. Because the hearts of varanid lizards, which also are endowed with pressure separation, share many of these morphological specializations, we propose that intraventricular compact myocardium is an indicator of high-pressure systems and possibly pressure separation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnatomical Science International
ISSN1447-6959
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Research areas

  • MR, python heart, snake

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