Author + information
- ↵∗Address for reprints: The Helen B. Taussig Children's Heart Center. The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.
The author has proposed in previous publications that isolated cardiac malformations have an evolutionary origin. This is partly supported by the fact that isolated cardiac malformations found in humans occur also in other placental mammals as well as in birds. External gross examination of the heart in just over 5,000 birds was carried out during a 3 year period. Anomalies included one instance of duplicate hearts, two specimens in which no heart could be identified and in a fourth, a yellow-rumped warbler, the heart lay in the neck outside of the thoracic cavity.
Published reports of similar occurrences of an ectopically placed heart concern birds, cattle and humans. The fact that various species of both placental mammals and birds show evidence of heritability for heart defects, and that these species cannot interbreed, combined with the fact that birds and mammals have many similar malformations, points to either a common external causative factor or a common origin.
Genes that code the malformed heart must be transmitted with that part of the genetic makeup common to all birds and mammals. Malformations caused by teratogens produce widespread organ injury to a potentially normal embryo whereas the evolutionary malformation is an organ-specific anomaly in an otherwise normal mammal or bird and occurs in widely separated species. The implications of this theory are important for parents of children with an isolated congenital heart defect who may have ingested one or another drug or chemical or have been exposed to toxins or infectious agents before or after conception of the affected offspring.
- Received March 7, 1988.
- Accepted March 25, 1988.