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Long Necked Giraffes And Their Hearts

Some implications for long necked dinosaurs...

However, exactly how they maintain this neck, and get blood to a head that is two metres from their heart, has remained unknown.

Now research reveals that giraffes have a small, powerful, supercharged heart that is different to that possessed by other similar mammals.

Scientists have published the discovery in the journal Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A.

"There are not many animals that have evolved to have a very long neck," says giraffe expert Professor Graham Mitchell from the Centre of Wildlife Studies in Onderstepoort, South Africa.

Prof Mitchell undertook the study along with Prof John Skinner at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, US.
Previous studies have found the giraffe has an extremely high blood pressure that is twice that found in other animals.
"We established that the heart is actually quite small. It's smaller than you'd expect in similar-sized animals, but the walls are incredibly thick," Prof Mitchell says.

"You have a small but a very powerful heart delivering the blood pressure."
The giraffe also has other specialist mechanisms to help deal with the high blood pressure, Prof Mitchell says.

"Blood pressure depends on the capacity of the cardiovascular system as well as the efficiency of the pump."

"Giraffes have got a way of adjusting the capacity of the cardiovascular system and are able to shrink and expand their blood vessels to change the volume of the cardiovascular system very efficiently."