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Respir Physiol. 1999 Sep 15;117(2-3):73-83.

Gas exchange potential in reptilian lungs: implications for the dinosaur-avian connection.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine 92697, USA.


The theory that birds evolved from a group of small terrestrial theropod dinosaurs has created much controversy. One argument proposed against this theory is that the lungs of early theropods were incapable of sustaining endothermic gas exchange requirements and could not have given rise to the lungs of birds. A reexamination of the comparative physiological and morphological literature combined with a theoretical analysis of gas exchange potential indicates that non-avian lungs would not constrain the gas exchange requirements of early endotherms. Furthermore, our analysis suggests that factors besides diffusive gas exchange were important in the evolution of the distinct morphology of the highly effective avian and mammalian lungs. reserved.

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