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Comparative Study
, 208 (Pt 16), 3047-53

Structure and Function of the Esophagus of the American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis)

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Comparative Study

Structure and Function of the Esophagus of the American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis)

T J Uriona et al. J Exp Biol.

Abstract

Esophageal structure and function were studied in juvenile American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). The anatomy of alligators differs from humans in several important aspects: the crocodilian esophagus is more muscular and is composed entirely of smooth muscle. Functionally, the crocodilian esophagus is similar to that of mammals, but alligators have peak esophageal peristaltic pressures that are 2-3-fold greater than pressures in the human esophagus. As is found in humans, the incidence of esophageal reflux increased in postprandial animals compared with the fasting state. We observed a large increase in pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) during ventilation that ranged from 200% to 3000% of the pressures measured during apnea. These pressure changes appear to be intrinsic to the LES. Alligators lack a mammalian-type diaphragm; thus, there is no crural diaphragmatic contribution to LES pressure. These features recommend the alligator as a useful model for the study of regulation of the LES.

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