The present study was designed to compare the anatomical parameters of the cardiopulmonary system in three different lines of chickens with different susceptibility to ascites syndrome. Eggs from three different genetic lines - commercial broiler and layer lines and one native to Iran-were incubated and hatched, and 1-day-old chicks used. The relative heart and lung weights, the volumes of the heart, lung and thorax cavity, the incidence of ascites, and the related physiological parameters in these chickens were followed. Lung weight as a percentage of body weight, the relative lung and heart volume, and the volumes of the thorax cavity, before and after removing heart and lung tissues, were lower in fast-growing broiler chickens compared with the layer and native chickens. Additionally, most of these parameters (e.g. relative lung weight, lung volume and thorax cavity) were significantly decreased with age in broiler chickens but were increased in layer and native chickens, which was concomitant with the incidence of ascites in broiler chickens. Our data indicate that all cardiopulmonary parameters investigated are extremely unfavourable to broiler chickens and suggest a reduction in gas exchange area in broilers, and therefore higher susceptibility to pulmonary hypertension and ascites.