Structural and Biomechanical Properties of the Exchange Tissue of the Avian Lung

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10 Citations (Scopus)


The blood capillaries (BC) and the air capillaries (ACs) are the terminal gas exchange units of the avian lung. The minuscule structures are astonishingly strong. It is only recently that the morphologies and the biomechanical properties of the BCs and the ACs were investigated. Regarding size and shape, the BCs and the ACs differ remarkably. While they were previously claimed to be tubular (cylindrical) in shape, the ACs are rather rotund structures which interconnect across short, narrow passageways. Atypical of those in other tissues, the BCs in the exchange tissue of the avian lung comprise of distinct segments which are about as long as they are wide and which are coupled in three-dimensions. The thin blood-gas barrier (BGB) which separates the ACs from the BCs is peculiarly strong. The causes of the strengths of the ACs and the BCs in general and the BGB in particular are varied and controversial. Here, the recent morphological and physiological findings on the structure, biomechanical properties, and the strengths of the respiratory units of the avian lung and the BGB have been critically examined. Also, in light of the new morphological findings of the ACs and the BCs, the functional model which is currently in use to assess the gas exchange efficiency of the avian lung should be revised and the inappropriateness of the terms 'blood capillary' and 'air capillary' for the gas exchange units of the avian lung is pointed out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1673-1688
Number of pages16
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Air capillaries
  • Birds
  • Blood capillaries
  • Blood-gas barrier
  • Lung
  • Strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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