Respiration in Animals

Animal Respiration

Animal Respiration system is a biological system consisting of specific organs and structures used for gas exchange in animals and plants. The anatomy and physiology that make this happen varies greatly, depending on the size of the organism, the environment in which it lives and its evolutionary history. In land animals respiration surface is internalized as linings of the lungs.

The Gas exchange in the lungs occurs in millions of small air sacs called alveoli in mammals and reptiles, but atria in birds. These microscopic air sacs have a very rich blood supply, thus bringing the air into close contact with the blood. These air sacs communicate with the external environment via a system of airways, or hollow tubes, of which the largest is the trachea, which branches in the middle of the chest into the two main bronchi.

animal respiration

These enter the lungs where they branch into progressively narrower secondary and tertiary bronchi that branch into numerous smaller tubes, the bronchioles. In birds the bronchioles are termed parabronchi. It is the bronchioles, or parabronchi that generally open into the microscopic alveoli in mammals and atria in birds. Air has to be pumped from the environment into the alveoli or atria by the process of breathing which involves the muscles of respiration.

In most fish, and a number of other aquatic animals both vertebrates and invertebrates the respiratory system consists of gills, which are either partially or completely external organs, bathed in the watery environment. This water flows over the gills by a variety of active or passive means. Gas exchange takes place in the gills which consist of thin or very flat filaments and lammelae which expose a very large surface area of highly vascularized tissue to the water.

Exceptional mammals

Horses: Horses are obligate nasal breathers which means that they are different from many other mammals because they do not have the option of breathing through their mouths and must take in air through their noses.

Elephants: The elephant is the only mammal known to have no pleural space. Rather, the parietal and visceral pleura are both composed of dense connective tissue and joined to each other via loose connective tissue. This lack of a pleural space, along with an unusually thick diaphragm, are thought to be evolutionary adaptations allowing the elephant to remain underwater for long periods of time while breathing through its trunk which emerges as a snorkel. In the elephant the lungs are attached to the diaphragm and breathing relies mainly on the diaphragm rather than the expansion of the ribcage.