Cephalic vascular anatomy in flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) based on novel vascular injection and computed tomographic imaging analyses

Casey M. Holliday, Ryan C. Ridgely, Amy M. Balanoff, Lawrence M. Witmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Head vascular anatomy of the greater (or Caribbean) flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is investigated and illustrated through the use of a differential contrast, dual vascular injection technique, and high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT), allowing arteries and veins to be differentiated radiographically. Vessels were digitally isolated with segmentation tools and reconstructed in 3D to facilitate topographical visualization of the cephalic vascular tree. Major vessels of the temporal, orbital, pharyngeal, and encephalic regions are described and illustrated, which confirm that the general pattern of avian cephalic vasculature is evolutionarily conservative. In addition to numerous arteriovenous vascular devices, a previously undescribed, large, bilateral, paralingual cavernous sinus that excavates a large bony fossa on the medial surface of the mandible was identified. Despite the otherwise conservative vascular pattern, this paralingual sinus was found only in species of flamingo and is not known otherwise in birds. The paralingual sinus remains functionally enigmatic, but a mechanical role in association with the peculiar lingual-pumping mode of feeding in flamingos is perhaps the most likely hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1041
Number of pages11
JournalAnatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Computed tomography
  • Feeding
  • Flamingo
  • Gross anatomy
  • Stereoangiography
  • Vasculature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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