Schachner, E. R., Farmer, C. G., McDonald, A. T., and P. Dodson. 2011. Evolution of the dinosauriform respiratory apparatus: new evidence from the postcranial axial skeleton. The Anatomical Record Early View. DOI: 10.1002/ar.21439
Abstract - Examination of the thoracic rib and vertebral anatomy of extant archosaurs indicates a relationship between the postcranial axial skeleton and pulmonary anatomy. Lung ventilation in extant crocodilians is primarily achieved with a hepatic piston pump and costal rotation. The tubercula and capitula of the ribs lie on the horizontal plane, forming a smooth thoracic ‘‘ceiling’’ facilitating movement of the viscera. Although the parietal pleura is anchored to the dorsal thoracic wall, the dorsal visceral pleura exhibits a greater freedom of movement. The air sac system and lungs of birds are associated with bicapitate ribs with a ventrally positioned capitular articulation, generating a rigid and furrowed rib cage that minimizes dorsoventral changes in volume in the dorsal thorax. The thin walled bronchi are kept from collapsing by fusion of the lung to the thorax on all sides. Data from this study suggest a progression from a dorsally rigid, heterogeneously partitioned, multichambered lung in basal dinosauriform archosaurs towards the small entirely rigid avian-style lung that was likely present in saurischian dinosaurs, consistent with a constant volume cavum pulmonale, thin walled parabronchi, and distinct air sacs. There is no vertebral evidence for a crocodilian hepatic piston pump in any of the taxa reviewed. The evidence for both a rigid lung and unidirectional airflow in dinosauriformes raises the possibility that these animals had a highly efficient lung relative to other Mesozoic vertebrates, which may have contributed to their successful radiation during this time period.
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