Washington, January 15 (ANI): Alligators have a one-way path for breathing that is similar to birds, says a new study, which could explain how dinosaurs' ancestors rose to prominence on Earth after the planet's worst mass extinction 251 million years ago.
Scientists at University of Utah have discovered that alligators breathe the same way as birds do, with the air flowing in one direction as it loops through the lungs.
Experts suggest that such a breathing pattern likely evolved before 246 million years ago, when crocodilians split from the branch of the archosaur family tree that led to pterosaurs, dinosaurs and birds.
It further implies that one-way airflow evolved in archosaurs earlier than once thought, and may explain why those animals came to dominance in the Early Triassic Period, after the extinction and when the recovering ecosystem was warm and dry, with oxygen levels perhaps as low as 12 percent of the air compared with 21 percent today.
C.G. Farmer, the study's principal author and an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah, explained: "The real importance of this air-flow discovery in gators is it may explain the turnover in fauna between the Permian and the Triassic, with the synapsids losing their dominance and being supplanted by these archosaurs. That's the major reason this is important scientifically."
She added that, even with much less oxygen in the atmosphere, "many archosaurs, such as pterosaurs, apparently were capable of sustaining vigorous exercise.
"Lung design may have played a key role in this capacity because the lung is the first step in the cascade of oxygen from the atmosphere to the animal's tissues, where it is used to burn fuel for energy."
However, Farmer clarified that breathing method might not necessarily be the only reason dinosaurs outdid other archosaurs. (ANI)