Vertebrate Evolution

Turtles' breathing evolved at a turtle's pace

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  28 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6213, pp. 1075
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6213.1075-b

The physiology of turtle breathing differs from that of other vertebrates


In most vertebrates, muscles associated with the lungs (intercostal muscles) work with the abdominal muscles to control breathing. In turtles, however, the rigid shell immobilizes the intercostal muscles, so only the abdominal muscles control lung expansion. How did such a major shift in an essential physiological function evolve? To find out, Lyson et al. compared extinct and extant vertebrates. The authors found that this transition proceeded slowly and began with a broadening of the ribs in a species that existed 50 million years before the first fully shelled turtle.

Nat. Commun.10.1038/ncomms6211 (2014).

Navigate This Article