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Alligator Muscles Move Lungs Image 2
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Alligator Muscles Move Lungs (Image 2)

July 2, 2010
Alligator Muscles Move Lungs (Image 2) Scientists have long believed that American alligators like these evolved certain muscles to help them breathe. But a new University of Utah study suggests that the muscles first evolved so alligators could move their lungs around inside their bodies, using the lungs as floatation airbags to help them dive, roll sideways and otherwise maneuver despite a lack of fins or flippers. The study was conducted by C. G. Farmer, assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah, and T. J. Uriona, a doctoral student in biology. They discovered gators maneuver silently by using their diaphragm, pelvic, abdominal and rib muscles to shift their lungs like internal floatation devices: toward the tail when they dive, toward the head when they surface and sideways when they roll. In this manner, they can navigate their watery environment without creating a lot of disturbance when they are trying to sneak up on their prey. The discovery in American alligators suggests "special muscles that manipulate the position of the lungs--and thus the center of buoyancy--may be an underappreciated but important means for other aquatic animals to maneuver in water without actively swimming," says Farmer. Those animals include crocodiles, African clawed frogs, some salamanders, turtles and manatees. The study by Farmer and Uriona, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (under grant IBN 01-37988, awarded to C.G. Farmer), the University of Utah and a private donor, Sharon Meyers of California, was published in the April 2008 issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology. To read more about the study, see the University of Utah news story, "How Alligators Rock and Roll." (Date of Image: March 2008) [See related image Here.]


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