Overview of Diversity in the Respiratory System of Mammals

Kent E Pinkerton, Laura S. Van Winkle, Charles Plopper

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


One of the principal functions of the respiratory system in mammals is gas exchange. To accomplish this task requires the presence of a membrane with an extremely large surface area but with minimal thickness. The surface area of this membrane is approximately 25 times larger than that of the integumentary surface for any given mammalian species. The tissue that separates the air surface of this membrane from the large vascular bed associated with it is limited in thickness to facilitate the requirements for rapid and efficient gas diffusion. Since gas exchange (oxygen and carbon dioxide) between the vascular system and external air is vital to the overall metabolic function of the organism, the capillary bed adjacent to the gas-exchange air surface has a similar surface area. The existence of such a large surface area creates a considerable number of challenges in terms of packaging and architectural organization to accommodate such a large gas flow and volume change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationComparative Biology of the Normal Lung: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages3
ISBN (Print)9780124045774, 9780124047266
StatePublished - Mar 18 2015


  • Airway branching
  • Airway secretions
  • Basement membrane
  • Capillary bed
  • Endothelial cells
  • Epithelial cells
  • Gas exchange
  • Mesothelium
  • Nasal cavity
  • Respiratory system
  • Secretory granule
  • Surface area
  • Tracheobronchial tree
  • Turbinates
  • Upper conducting airways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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