A number of anatomical characters of crocodilians appear to be inconsistent with their lifestyle as sit-and-wait predators. To address this paradoxical association of characters further, we measured lung ventilation and respiratory gas exchange during walking in American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). During exercise, ventilation consisted of low-frequency, large-volume breaths. The alligators hyperventilated severely during walking with respect to their metabolic demands. Air convection requirements were among the highest and estimates of lung P(CO2) were among the lowest known in air-breathing vertebrates. Air convection requirements dropped immediately with cessation of exercise. These observations indicate that the ventilation of alligators is not limited by their locomotor movements. We suggest that the highly specialized ventilatory system of modern crocodilians represents a legacy from cursorial ancestors rather than an adaptation to a lifestyle as amphibious sit-and-wait predators.
Ventilation and gas exchange during treadmill locomotion in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
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C.G. Farmer, D.R. Carrier; Ventilation and gas exchange during treadmill locomotion in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). J Exp Biol 1 June 2000; 203 (11): 1671–1678. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.203.11.1671
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