Comparative anatomy of Aortic Arches

Aortic arches are paired blood vessels that emerge from the ventricle of the heart which are basically similar in number and disposition in different vertebrates during the embryonic stages.

Embryonic aortic arches: During the embryonic stages 
     Six pairs of aortic arches develop in most gnathostomes and are named according to the name of the visceral clefts. These are designated by roman numerals. The first aortic arch named Mandibular, proceeds upwards on either side of the pharynx. Mandibular aortic arch turn backwards as lateral aortae which both join mesially to form the common dorsal aorta. The second aortic arch becomes hyoid arch. The third, fourth, fifth & sixth are called branchial arches.

Modification of aortic arches in different vertebrates:
y y y The number of aortic arches is different in different adult vertebrates but they built on the same fundamental plan in embryonic life. The differences in number of aortic arches are due to the complexity of heart circulation in the mode of living from aquatic to terrestrial respiration. There is a progressive reduction of aortic arches in the vertebrate series during evolution.

1. Aortic arches in primitive vertebrates: 
Branchiostoma (amphioxus) has about 60 pairs of aortic arches, but Petromyzon has only 7 pairs and Myxine has 6 pairs of aortic arches.

2. Aortic arches in fishes:
In Elasmobranchs:  The primitive elasmobranches, Heptanchus has only 7 pairs of aortic arches, where as Selachins has only 6 pairs of aortic arches.  In most sharks, Scoliodon, have 5 pairs of functional aortic arches; the first pair is reduced or disappears or replaced by the non-functional gills. In Teleosts:  In most teleosts or bony fishes, the first and second aortic arches are tend to disappear & thus only third, fourth, fifth & sixth pairs of aortic arches remain functional. In Polypterus & Lungfishes (Dipnoi):  Due to the mode of living & respiration from aquatic to terrestrial, the first aortic arches disappeared & thus there are third, fourth & sixth aortic arches which are functional.  A set of pulmonary artery arises from the sixth aortic arches, near the dorsal aorta. Notes: y y y In Elasmobranchs & dipnoans, each aortic arch has one afferent artery & two efferent arteries in each gill. In teleosts, each arch has one afferent & one efferent artery in each gill. In tetrapods, the arteries do not break up; as a result, the gills are situated below the artery.

3. Aortic arches in amphibians:
Due to presence of lung as the main respiratory organ, the importance of gills is diminished. In urodels:       Four pairs of aortic arches (third to sixth) are functional in general. The fifth pair is absent in Siren, Amphiuma. The third pair forms the carotid artery & the fourth pair forms the systemic arches. The radix or lateral aorta between third & fourth arches may persist as a vascular connection called ductus caroticus. The sixth pair forms the pulmonary arteries which supply blood to skin and lungs. It retains connection with radix aorta, called ductus arteriosus.

In anurans:       At metamorphosis, with loss of gills, first, second & fifth aortic arches disappear altogether. Thus three pairs of aortic arches (third, fourth & sixth) are functional in general. Carotid arch takes oxygenated blood to head region. Systemic arch on each side continues to dorsal aorta to distribute blood elsewhere except head & lung. Pulmonary arch supplies venous blood exclusively to lungs for purification. The ductus caroticus & ductus arteriosus are usually absent.

Notes: y According to Kent & Miller (1997) the adult anurans have three pairs of aortic arches (third, fourth & sixth) which are also retained by the amniotes or higher vertebrates.

4. Aortic arches in reptiles:
Reptiles are fully terrestrial vertebrates in which gills disappear altogether and replaced by lungs.  Only three functional arches (third, fourth & sixth) are present.  Right systemic arch (fourth) arises from left ventricle carrying oxygenated blood to the carotid arch (third) to be sent into head.  Left systemic arch (fourth) leads from right ventricle carrying deoxygenated or mixed blood to the body through dorsal aorta.  Pulmonary trunk (sixth) arises from right ventricle carrying deoxygenated blood to the lungs for purification.  Generally ductus caroticus & ductus arteriosus are absent but in certain snakes & lizards (Uromasitx) the ductus caroticus is present and in some turtle & Sphenodon, the ductus arteriosus is present.

5. Aortic arches in birds & mammals:
Birds & mammals are warm-blooded because in both the ventricle is completely divided so that there is no mixing of oxygenated & deoxygenated bloods.        6 arches develop in embryo, but only 3 arches (third, fourth & sixth) persist in the adult. Single systemic aorta, right in birds & left in mammals, emerging from left ventricle and carrying oxygenated blood. Systemic aorta unites with the radix aorta to form dorsal aorta. Subclavian artery present on the left side in birds & on the right side in mammals. Third arch represents carotid arteries, which arise from systemic aorta. Sixth arch arises from a single pulmonary trunk taking deoxygenated blood from right ventricle to the lung. Embryonic ductus caroticus & ductus arteriosus also disappear.

Conclusion: Discussing the aortic arches in these vertebrate groups, it is clear that they are originated from a common ancestral
stock and their embryonic condition of aortic arches supports the recapitulation theory of Hieckel. (Kent & Miller, 1997)

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