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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2006 Nov-Dec;79(6):1019-32. Epub 2006 Oct 2.

Function of intracoelomic septa in lung ventilation of amniotes: lessons from lizards.

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  • 1Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal da Bahia, 40170-290 Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.


Aspiration breathing is the dominant mechanism of lung inflation among extant amniotes. However, aspiration has two fundamental problems associated with it: paradoxical visceral translation and partial lung collapse. These can constrain the inspiratory tidal volume, reduce the effective lung ventilation, and ultimately curtail the aerobic capacity of an animal. Separation of the pleural and peritoneal cavities by an intracoelomic septum can restrict the cranial shift of abdominal viscera and provide structural support to the caudal lung surface. A muscular septum, such as the diaphragm of mammals or the diaphragmaticus of crocodilians, can exert active control over visceral translation and the degree of lung inflation. To a lesser degree, a nonmuscular septum can also function as a passive barrier when stretched taut by rib rotation. Studies of the posthepatic septum in teiid lizards and the postpulmonary septum in varanid lizards underscore the importance of nonmuscular septa in aspiration. These septa provide plausible functional models that help us infer the evolution of mammalian and avian lung ventilatory systems, respectively.

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