Macroscopic Anatomy and Brain Vascularization in the Greater Rhea (Rhea americana americana)
Background: The Rhea americana americana is a wild bird belonging to the group of Ratites, and is important from the scientific point of view given their adaptability to captivity. Considering that information about its morphology is important for the viability of domesticating the species, the aim of this study was to macroscopically identify the brain regions, as well as the cerebral arteries and the cerebral arterial circuit in order to establish the cerebral vascular pattern and systematization.
Materials, Methods & Results: Twenty one brains from young and adult Greater Rheas of both sexes were used from animals that had died due to natural causes and were then kept in a freezer. The specimens were thawed and incised in the cervical region to allow exposure of the left common carotid artery, which was cannulated. The vascular system was rinsed with 0.9% saline solution, then perfused with latex Neoprene 650 stained with red pigment. The animals were subsequently fixed in 3.7% aqueous formaldehyde solution for 72 h, and then they were dissected by removing the bones from the skull cap. The brains were analyzed, and the structures were identified, photographed, schematized and denominated. Morphometric measurements were performed on the basilar and cerebellar ventral caudal arteries, recording the values of length and width in millimeters with the aid of a digital caliper. The brain was divided into: telencephalon, diencephalon, brainstem and cerebellum; while externally, the observed structures are: olfactory bulbs, optical lobes, optic nerves, optic chiasm, pituitary and pineal glands. Vascularization was performed by the following arteries: ventral spinal artery, basilar artery, ventricular cerebellar arteries, medium ventricular cerebellar arteries, caudal branches of the carotid arteries of the brain, ventral mesencephalic artery, cerebral caudal arteries, rostral branches of the carotid arteries of the brain, middle cerebral arteries, cerebroethmoidal arteries, rostral intercerebral anastomosis, rostral cerebral arteries, ethmoidal arteries, internal ophthalmic arteries, inter-hemispheric artery, pituitary arteries, dorsal mesencephalic tectal arteries, dorsal cerebellar arteries, occipital, pineal and dorsal hemispherical branches. The cerebral arterial circuit was both caudally and rostrally closed in 100.0% of the samples, being composed of the arteries: basilar artery, caudal branches of the carotid brain, rostral branches of the brain carotid, cerebroethmoidal arteries and rostral intercerebral anastomosis.
Discussion: Encephalon classification regarding the presence or absence of gyri is a characteristic associated to evolutionary aspects among vertebrates, being respectively considered as lisencephalon or girencecephalus when it presents or does not present convolutions. In Greater Rheas, the telencephalon was quite developed, with a relatively rounded shape and the absence of sulci and convolutions in the cortex, which allowed it to be classified as a lisencephalon. Such findings resemble those described for the ostrich and in a comparative study involving kiwis, emus, owls and pigeons, although different sizes and forms of telencephalon development were observed in the latter. Regarding the cerebral arterial circuit, this structure in Rheas was complete and both caudally and rostrally closed in 100.0% of the specimens. Our findings differ from those observed for ostriches, in which a rostrally open behavior has been described, while it is caudally closed in 20.0% of cases and opened in 80.0%. Regarding the vascular type of the brain, in the Rhea it was observed that there was only contribution of the carotid system, similar to that found for birds such as ostriches and turkeys which confer a type I encephalic vascularization.
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