Dinosaur Lungs

bird respiration

Next time you're cutting up a fresh bird, try looking for the lungs. They're about where you'd expect them to be, but they're nestled up dorsally against the ribs and vertebrae, and they're surprisingly small. If you think about it, the the thorax of a bird is a fairly rigid box, with that large sternal keel up front and short ribs—it's a wonder that they are able to get enough air from those tiny organs with relatively little capability for expanding and contracting the chest.

How they do it is an amazing story. Birds have a radically effective respiratory system that works rather differently than ours, with multiple adaptations working together to improve their ability to take in oxygen. There is also a growing body of evidence that dinosaurs also shared many of these adaptations, tightening their link to birds and also making them potentially even more fierce—they were big, they were active, and their lungs were turbocharged.

Continue reading Dinosaur lungs (on Pharyngula)


Did something happen to the “Next” link? It used to be the last article just ended without a “Next”; now this one’s looping back around to the first post.

Ok, now that I’ve publicly posted, it’s behaving just fine–much like my computer does when the tech support guy shows up. Still, the first time through this thread, it did loop around to the beginning. Maybe it was just a fluke.

(Reminds me of an old parasitology joke: “I thought I had tapeworms once, but it was just a fluke.”

PZ, This was a very interesting and informative article. Thank you for sharing it.

I am not a biologist by any stretch of the imagination. Because of this, at times, some of the articles that directly reference some of the biological research tends to go WAY over my head (or, in some cases, just lose my interest). This one did not. It seemed geared more toward the interested layman and, if that was your intended audience, I can only say how well you hit the mark.

PZ, I always read your posts and practically never reply. I certainly don’t have anything useful to contribute. I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate your excellent work in making these articles available to me. Frankly they are not really available to me as originally published, because I don’t understand what they are talking about. I frequently notice that I can’t figure out what the diagrams mean based on the words that were with the diagrams in their origianl articles, but I understand the diagrams just fine from your every-man worded explanation. Thank you for taking the time to explain the jargon and the basic background of the biological situation so that an electronics engineer non-biologist like me can understand and appreciate it. Ron Bear

I attempted to post a comment about biological countercurrent heat exchangers (“rete mirabile”) on Pharyngula, but the software kept asserting bogus errors on my part that I could not work around.  (I swear, the anti-spam image said “darwin” in all lower case, I typed that… it was rejected, or at least that’s what the CGI claimed the problem was.)

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on July 14, 2005 2:59 PM.

Darwin on the argument from Ignorance was the previous entry in this blog.

The DI Spins Leonard is the next entry in this blog.

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