Respiratory System

[Dentition] [Trunk] [Ears] [Skin] [Hair] [Feet] [Brain] [Skeleton] [Internal Systems]

Did you know?

  • Elephants have no pleural cavity
  • Elephant lungs attach directly to the walls of the chest cavity and to the diaphragm
  • Respiratory movements are dependent on chest musculature (not on inflating lungs by negative pressure in the pleural cavity, as is usual in mammals)

The respiratory system of the elephant is quite exceptional in a number of ways.  The elephant lacks a pleural cavity.  This means the lungs are directly attached to the walls of the chest cavity and to the diaphragm.  Thus respiratory movements are solely dependent on chest musculature, since there is no mechanism of inflating the lungs by negative pressure in the pleural cavity as is usual in mammals.  As a result of this unique physiology, the elephant would find it difficult to breathe if any restraint or pressure is placed on the movement of the chest and diaphragm, essentially over time suffocating from its own tremendous weight.

Air enters the lungs through internal nares which are located high on the forehead.  The position of the nares is indicated by the plate-size circle of skin.

An elephant can breathe through its mouth as well as through its trunk, so it can retain water or dust in the trunk without having to hold its breathe.

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