In light of evidence for avian-like lungs in saurischian dinosaurs, the physiological implications of cross-current gas exchange and voluminous, highly heterogeneous lungs for sauropod gigantism are critically examined. At 12 ton the predicted body temperature and metabolic rate of a growing sauropod would be similar to that of a bird scaled to the same body weight, but would increase exponentially as body mass increases. Although avian-like lung structure would be consistent with either a tachymetabolic-endothermic or a bradymetabolic-gigantothermic model, increasing body temperature requires adjustments to avoid overheating. We suggest that a unique sauropod structure/function unit facilitated the evolution of gigantism. This unit consisted of (1) a reduction in metabolic rate below that predicted by the body temperature, akin to thermal adaptation as seen in extant squamates, (2) presence of air-filled diverticula in the long neck and in the visceral cavity, and (3) low activity of respiratory muscles coupled with the high efficiency of cross-current gas exchange. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology
|Published - Oct 2009