Respiratory function and mechanics in pinnipeds and cetaceans.
In this Review, we focus on the functional properties of the respiratory system of pinnipeds and cetaceans, and briefly summarize the underlying anatomy; in doing so, we provide an overview of what is currently known about their respiratory physiology and mechanics. While exposure to high pressure is a common challenge among breath-hold divers, there is a large variation in respiratory anatomy, function and capacity between species - how are these traits adapted to allow the animals to withstand the physiological challenges faced during dives? The ultra-deep diving feats of some marine mammals defy our current understanding of respiratory physiology and lung mechanics. These animals cope daily with lung compression, alveolar collapse, transient hyperoxia and extreme hypoxia. By improving our understanding of respiratory physiology under these conditions, we will be better able to define the physiological constraints imposed on these animals, and how these limitations may affect the survival of marine mammals in a changing environment. Many of the respiratory traits to survive exposure to an extreme environment may inspire novel treatments for a variety of respiratory problems in humans.
Fahlman, A; Moore, MJ; Garcia-Parraga, D
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