MAR 16, 2015 03:07 PM PDT

Alligator lungs show how dinosaurs synthesized oxygen

WRITTEN BY: Will Hector
6 50 3285
Dinosaurs appeared on Earth about 230 million years ago, when atmospheric oxygen levels were close to half what they are today. Scientists are looking for clues to how they survived by studying a modern relative-the alligator.

Alligators incubated and raised in an environment with just 12 percent oxygen (compared to today's 21 percent) had larger hearts and lungs and improved cardiopulmonary function, University of California, Irvine biologist James Hicks and postdoctoral researcher Tomasz Owekowicz have found.
Alligator lungs formed in an environment of lower oxygen levels.
"In a similar vein, the success of dinosaurs probably depended on the effectiveness of their lungs and hearts in obtaining oxygen from air and distributing it throughout the body," Hicks says. "Our results provide indirect evidence that dinosaurs must have had superior oxygen delivery systems."

Because of changes in the Earth's atmosphere: dropping oxygen levels and rising carbon dioxide levels; these findings may help to understand how some animals will be able to adapt to environmental change in the near future, Hicks says. "They may help us identify which animals are likely to survive and which might become extinct in new atmospheric conditions."

Large reptiles such as alligators have existed in their basic form for about 220 million years, surviving large oxygen fluctuations. To study how they adapt, Hicks and Owerkowicz incubated alligator eggs at different oxygen levels-12 percent, 21 percent, and 30 percent (Earth's peak level, occurring about 300 million years ago).

Hatchlings from the two higher-oxygen groups had no obvious physical differences, but those from the oxygen-starved group had swollen bellies. Researchers believe there was not enough oxygen for the developing embryos to consume all of their egg-yolk food, leaving them with huge yolk-distended potbellies. They also were smaller, except for their hearts, which were large, presumably to maximize the limited oxygen supply.

After three months in their respective atmospheres, the low-oxygen alligators had compensated by developing enlarged lungs, resulting in an increased metabolic rate.

"The metabolic rate determines everything an animal is capable of doing-running, digesting, keeping warm, growing, and reproducing," Owerkowicz says. "The basic function of alligators-the resting metabolic rate-was different just because the oxygen level was different."

Source: Futurity.org
About the Author
  • Will Hector practices psychotherapy at Heart in Balance Counseling Center in Oakland, California. He has substantial training in Attachment Theory, Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy, Psycho-Physical Therapy, and Formative Psychology. To learn more about his practice, click here: http://www.heartinbalancetherapy.com/will-hector.html
You May Also Like
JUN 12, 2018
Cancer
JUN 12, 2018
CD44 Insights & Cancer Influence
CD44 is a known cell surface protein involved in numerous interactions; it is overexpressed in cancerous tissue and its isoforms are being investigated as targets for cancer immunotherapy
JUN 19, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 19, 2018
The Impact of Antibiotics on Gut Microbes
Antibiotics had a dramatic impact on the microbes of the GI tract in a research model.
JUN 30, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 30, 2018
Gene-editor Eases Autism Symptoms in Mouse Model
This is the first time a gene alteration has successfully changed behaviors associated with autism.
JUL 20, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
JUL 20, 2018
Nanoparticle-based Gene Therapy Cures Disease in Fetal Mice
Although CRISPR has grabbed a lot of headlines in recent years, it is not the only gene-editing game in town.
JUL 25, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 25, 2018
Super-resolution Microscope Provides Insight Into Alzheimer's Plaques
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the US.
JUL 31, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 31, 2018
A Brand New Geometric Shape
Cell use this shape when packing together to form structures.
Loading Comments...