How did the four-chambered heart in both mammals and birds evolve independently from a three-chambered heart in their common ancestors amongst early reptiles? From a teleological point of view, this parallel evolutionary transition is consistent with rise in metabolism associated with the evolution of endothermy – the ability to maintain high and stable body temperatures – in both mammals and birds. However, it is not given that birds and mammals would solve the functional challenge of elevating oxygen transport by evolving so similar cardiovascular structures. Therefore I am interested in elucidating whether there are evolutionary constraints in the ancestral reptilian heart and whether there were merely a few possible avenues to provide the high blood pressure and high heart rates to provide the extra oxygen transport to the body.
I am interested in how animals function and how they have adapted to the environments where they live. Being trained as a biologist, I take an evolutionary approach to understand the evolution of physiological systems amongst vertebrates, and collaborate widely with medical physiologist and molecular biologists in my studies on heart function in various animals. I am professor of Zoophysiology at Aarhus University and believe in the importance of science dissemination.
Evolution of the four-chambered heart
Area of research:
01 Feb 2018 – 31 Jan 2019