Lung Power

Manatees replace a large percentage of air in their lungs with each breath and can therefore prolong intervals between breaths. (Photo © David Schrichte)


Q. Are there any interesting facts about the manatee's lungs?
--- Julia W., Washington, D.C.

A. Both the lungs and the diaphragm of a manatee extend the length of the body cavity and so are oriented in the same horizontal plane as the manatee in the water. An unusual anatomical feature of manatees is that each lung is in a separate cavity. Instead of one diaphragm like people, manatees have separate "hemi-diaphragms." Besides breathing, the lungs help the manatee with buoyancy control. Manatees replace a large percentage of air in their lungs with each breath and can therefore prolong intervals between breaths. In fact, studies have shown that manatees can renew about 90% of the air in their lungs in a single breath as compared to humans who renew about 10%.

 

 

 

 

 

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Both the lungs and the diaphragm of a manatee extend the length of the body cavity and so are oriented in the same horizontal plane as the manatee in the water.

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