A cineradiographic study of lung ventilation in Alligator mississippiensis

J Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2009 Oct 1;311(8):563-85. doi: 10.1002/jez.530.


The skeletal and visceral kinematics of lung ventilation of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) was examined using cineradiography, pneumotachometry, and intrapulmonary pressure recording. The respiratory pattern of A. mississippiensis is intermittent and diphasic. The inspiratory lung volume is retained during the non-ventilatory period through closure of the glottis. The aspiration pump of A. mississippiensis consists of multiple components: visceral movement, pubic rotation, gastralial movement, and costosternal movement, which vary independently in their contribution to lung ventilation. Vertebral flexion and extension is also observed, and may be a passive artifact of costal displacement. The amount of craniocaudal visceral movement during lung ventilation is variable, and can produce as much as 60% of the tidal volume. Pubic rotation is not directly coupled to visceral movement and contributes a relatively small percentage of the tidal volume, approximately 4% on average, as does vertebral flexion, which contributes less than 3%. Costosternal movement contributes the remaining majority of tidal volume, generally over 40%. The gastralia stiffen the abdominal wall and likely facilitate unified displacement of the abdominal wall. Tripartite ribs facilitate thoracic movement, allowing substantial excursion of the body wall. A relatively abrupt change in position of the vertebral parapophysis in the anterior thorax results in an increase in lateral rib movement in the posterior half of the thorax. The crocodylian aspiration pump appears to consist of a derived pelvic and diaphragmatic breathing pump combined with a basal costosternal and gastralial aspiration pump.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alligators and Crocodiles / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Male
  • Radiography
  • Respiration*