Gas exchange in the lung of a dasyurid marsupial: morphometric estimation of diffusion capacity and blood oxygen uptake kinetics

Respir Physiol. 1989 Sep;77(3):309-22. doi: 10.1016/0034-5687(89)90119-9.


Placental and marsupial mammals differ in the balance of their cardio-respiratory systems. To determine if differences also occur in lung structure, a morphometric study of the lungs of a dasyurid marsupial, Dasyuroides byrnei, was undertaken. The total lung volume was large, but a comparatively smaller proportion was devoted to gas exchange tissue. Eighty-seven percent of lung parenchyma was air space. The volume of capillary blood was lower than would be predicted on a body mass basis, but the hematocrit was high (55%). The rate of oxygen uptake by the blood of D. byrnei was not different from that of recent determinations on human blood. However, a large oxygen capacity resulted in a high theta O2. Morphometric data were used, with theta O2 calculated for D. byrnei, to estimate the pulmonary diffusion capacity. Mass specific DLO2 was high by comparison to those reported for placentals. The erythrocytes contributed 70% of the diffusion resistance to oxygen transfer, with the large theta O2 counteracting the low Vc. We conclude that, similarly to placentals, lung structure is unlikely to limit oxygen transport in this animal, although the structural emphasis appears to be geared towards maximising alveolar ventilation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Lung / anatomy & histology*
  • Lung / physiology
  • Marsupialia / anatomy & histology*
  • Marsupialia / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange*