PMID: 11911376Mar 26, 2002

Some recent advances on the study and understanding of the functional design of the avian lung: morphological and morphometric perspectives

Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
J N Maina


The small highly aerobic avian species have morphometrically superior lungs while the large flightless ones have less well-refined lungs. Two parabronchial systems, i.e. the paleopulmo and neopulmo, occur in the lungs of relatively advanced birds. Although their evolution and development are not clear, understanding their presence is physiologically important particularly since the air- and blood flow patterns in them are different. Geometrically, the bulk air flow in the parabronchial lumen, i.e. in the longitudinal direction, and the flow of deoxygenated blood from the periphery, i.e. in a centripetal direction, are perpendicularly arranged to produce a cross-current relationship. Functionally, the blood capillaries in the avian lung constitute a multicapillary serial arterialization system. The amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged arises from many modest transactions that occur where air- and blood capillaries interface along the parabronchial lengths, an additive process that greatly enhances the respiratory efficiency. In some species of birds, an epithelial tumescence occurs at the terminal part of the extrapulmonary primary bronchi (EPPB). The swelling narrows the EPPB, conceivably allowing the shunting of inspi...Continue Reading


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