Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy (2012)

DOI: 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2012.06.001


The present study describes the organization of the orexinergic (hypocretinergic) neurons in the hypothalamus of the giraffe and harbour porpoise – two members of the mammalian Order Cetartiodactyla which is comprised of the even-toed ungulates and the cetaceans as they share a monophyletic ancestry. Diencephalons from two sub-adult male giraffes and two adult male harbour porpoises were coronally sectioned and immunohistochemically stained for orexin-A. The staining revealed that the orexinergic neurons could be readily divided into two distinct neuronal types based on somal volume, area and length, these being the parvocellular and magnocellular orexin-A immunopositive (OxA+) groups. The magnocellular group could be further subdivided, on topological grounds, into three distinct clusters – a main cluster in the perifornical and lateral hypothalamus, a cluster associated with the zona incerta and a cluster associated with the optic tract. The parvocellular neurons were found in the medial hypothalamus, but could not be subdivided, rather they form a topologically amorphous cluster. The parvocellular cluster appears to be unique to the Cetartiodactyla as these neurons have not been described in other mammals to date, while the magnocellular nuclei appear to be homologous to similar nuclei described in other mammals. The overall size of both the parvocellular and magnocellular neurons (based on somal volume, area and length) were larger in the giraffe than the harbour porpoise, but the harbour porpoise had a higher number of both parvocellular and magnocellular orexinergic neurons than the giraffe despite both having a similar brain mass. The higher number of both parvocellular and magnocellular orexinergic neurons in the harbour porpoise may relate to the unusual sleep mechanisms in the cetaceans.