Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
the main paired anteroposterior veins carrying blood to the heart, well developed in the embryos of all vertebrates and man. In adults, the cardinal veins are completely developed only in rotifers, fish, and caudate amphibians.
The anterior cardinal veins, or jugular veins, collect blood from the head, while the posterior cardinal veins collect blood from the kidneys and walls of the trunk. The anterior and posterior cardinal veins merge on each side of the body to form the ducts of Cuvier. In lungfish and terrestrial vertebrates the function of the posterior cardinal veins is performed by the posterior (inferior) vena cava, which in part develops from them. The vestiges of the posterior cardinal veins are reduced in acaudate amphibians but form the vertebral and azygos veins in terrestrial vertebrates. The anterior cardinal veins are part of the anterior (superior) vena cava.