Marine mammals belonging to the Order of CetoArtiodactyla have developed their organs and adapted their anatomic structures to survive and better exploit the resources of the surrounding water environment. Though belonging to the Mammal Class and, hence, having a cardio-respiratory system based on the gas exchange with the atmosphere, they are able to perform long-lasting immersions and reach considerable depths during diving [1]. On the other hand, the anatomy of the tracheo-bronchial structures of the Family Delfinidae differs from that of terrestrial mammals in the lack of muscular tissue in the posterior region and the irregular shape of the cartilaginous rings (Fig.1a-b-c) [1, 2]. So far, the behavior of dolphin respiratory system during diving is not yet fully understood, since they cannot be subjected to invasive analysis being endangered and protected species. Namely, it remains to ascertain whether the tracheo-bronchial tree collapses during diving or is kept open by the peculiar material properties, the anatomical structure and the presence of entrapped air. Aim of this work is to model the dolphin Tursiops truncatus’s tracheo-bronchial tree to study its behavior during diving by coupling experimental in vitro mechanical characterization of airways tissues to finite element computational analyses. Furthermore, we performed a comparison between the mechanical behavior of tracheo-bronchial trees of dolphins and that of the goat, a terrestrial mammal whose conformation of the upper airways is similar to the human, to highlight discrepancies due to the different habitats.

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