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Orbital rete and red muscle vein anatomy indicate a high degree of endothermy in the brain and eye of the salmon shark

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The salmon shark has been ranked as the most endothermic lamnid shark based upon geographical range, extent of slow twitch muscle, supra-hepatic rete size, and limited temperature measurements, yet its anatomy has remained largely undescribed, and measurements of brain or eye temperatures have not been reported. In this study, four specimens are examined to determine if the morphological requirements for warming the brain and eyes are present. A well-developed arterial orbital rete lies within a venous sinus on both sides of the cranium. Cool, oxygenated blood from the gills can pass through the vessels of this exchanger before reaching the brain or eyes. Since venous blood in the sinus flows opposite the arterial blood, counter-current heat exchange can occur. A vein originating in the red swimming muscle likely contributes to the warmth of the venous sinus by supplying blood directly from the warmest region of the shark. Before collecting in the orbital sinus, this red muscle vein bathes the brain in warm blood. These morphological data suggest the salmon shark has a significant capacity to warm the brain and eyes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA, salmon sharks, endothermy, vascular anatomy

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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