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How Animals Work

Avian Respiratory Dynamics Animation
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About this animation

Learn more about avian respiratory anatomy

This animation was developed for
Biology 325, How Animals Work, Spring 1996
Prof. Carol Beuchat
Created in collaboration with Jeff Sale.

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Description of the avian respiratory system:

The avian respiratory system differs from other vertebrate respiratory systems. Anatomically, their lungs are connected to large thin-walled air sacs, which appear to function sort of like bellows (as seen in the animation above), rather than like lungs, such that they have a minimal blood supply and they are not involved in gas exchange.

The avian respiratory system is more efficient than that of mammals, in part due to the much higher metabolic rate they have, especially while in flight.The gas flow to and from these air sacs in believed to be mediated by pseudo-aerodynamic valves.

Most distinctly, the avian respiratory system is not tidal such as is the case with the mammalian respiratory system. In mammals, the alveoli are "dead-ends" or "blind-ended", containing a mixture of fresh and stale air. In birds, the parabronchi (avian alveolar counterpart) are open at both ends so air may flow right through.

Why is this so important?

Normally, students in a comparative physiology or anatomy course must piece together pictures from a text in order to create in their minds what is presented here in this shocked Macromedia Director® animation. The advantage to watching an animation is not only obvious, but the additional advantage of accessing it for free over the World Wide Web is both obvious and very exciting. This kind of instructional technology rapid prototyping for science education at the undergraduate and graduate level is what we emphasize here at San Diego State University College of Sciences Instructional Technologies.

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Last Revised 11-15-99