The morphometry of the lung of the African lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus): Its structural - functional correlations

J. N. Maina, G. M.O. Maloiy

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31 Citations (Scopus)


The lung of the African lungfish Protopterus aethiopicus has been investigated by morphometric techniques. The volume of the lung was strongly correlated with body mass. The exchange tissue made up about 50% of the lung. The intrapulmonary air constituted 73% of the volume of the lung, the rest being made up of the interalveolar septa (22%) and the blood capillaries (5%). The surface area of the blood-gas (tissue) barrier per unit body mass was 14.3 cm2 g-1 and the harmonic mean thickness of the tissue barrier 0.370 μm. The total morphometric pulmonary diffusing capacity per unit body mass was 0.0024 ml O2 s-1 mbar-61 kg-1 (1 bar = 105 Pa). Of the three existing genera of lungfish, the general structure of the lung of Protopterus was similar to that of Lepidosiren and much unlike that of Neoceratodus. This could be attributed to the fact that both Protopterus and Lepidosiren are obligated air-breathers while neoceratodus is an obligate water-breather. A comparison of the pulmonary morphometric data on protopterus with those of the gas exchange apparatus of other groups of vertebrates has been made and pulmonary morphometric and design specializations in the evolution of the air-breathing vertebrates from the lungfishes (some of the initial air-breathers) to reptiles through to birds are apparent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-420
Number of pages22
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1237
Publication statusPublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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