A morphometric study of the lungs of different sized bats: correlations between structure and function of the chiropteran lung.

J. N. Maina, S. P. Thomas, D. M. Hyde

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35 Scopus citations


1. The lungs of four species of bats, Phyllostomus hastatus (PH, mean body mass, 98 g), Pteropus lylei (PL, 456 g), Pteropus alecto (PA, 667 g), and Pteropus poliocephalus (PP, 928 g) were analysed by morphometric methods. These data increase fivefold the range of body masses for which bat lung data are available, and allow more representative allometric equations to be formulated for bats. 2. Lung volume ranged from 4.9 cm3 for PH to 39 cm3 for PP. The volume density of the lung parenchyma (i.e. the volume proportion of the parenchyma in the lung) ranged from 94% in PP to 89% in PH. Of the components of the parenchyma, the alveoli composed 89% and the blood capillaries about 5%. 3. The surface area of the alveoli exceeded that of the blood-gas (tissue) barrier and that of the capillary endothelium whereas the surface area of the red blood cells as well as that of the capillary endothelium was greater than that of the tissue barrier. PH had the thinnest tissue barrier (0.1204 microns) and PP had the thickest (0.3033 microns). 4. The body mass specific volume of the lung, that of the volume of pulmonary capillary blood, the surface area of the blood-gas (tissue) barrier, the diffusing capacity of the tissue barrier, and the total morphometric pulmonary diffusing capacity in PH all substantially exceeded the corresponding values of the pteropid species (i.e. PL, PA and PP). This conforms with the smaller body mass and hence higher unit mass oxygen consumption of PH, a feature reflected in the functionally superior gas exchange performance of its lungs. 5. Morphometrically, the lungs of different species of bats exhibit remarkable differences which cannot always be correlated with body mass, mode of flight and phylogeny. Conclusive explanations of these pulmonary structural disparities in different species of bats must await additional physiological and flight biomechanical studies. 6. While the slope, the scaling factor (b), of the allometric equation fitted to bat lung volume data (b = 0.82) exceeds the value for flight VO2max (b = 0.70), those for the surface area of the blood-gas (tissue) barrier (b = 0.74), the pulmonary capillary blood volume (b = 0.74), and the total morphometric lung diffusing capacity for oxygen (b = 0.69) all correspond closely to the VO2max value. 7. Allometric comparisons of the morphometric pulmonary parameters of bats, birds and non-flying mammals reveal that superiority of the bat lung over that of the non-flying mammal.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-50
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological sciences
Issue number1266
StatePublished - Jul 29 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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