What are four ways the lungs are adapted to their function?

1 Answer
May 16, 2018

Some adaptations are related to the alveoli, exercise, surface area, and ventilation.


  1. Alveoli
    The alveoli are the location of gas exchange in the lungs. They have several adaptations that make the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and the blood more efficient. For example, each alveoli is thin-walled and is wrapped in capillaries. This minimises the diffusion distance for the gas molecules.

  2. Exercise
    The lungs are also adapted in a number of ways to deal with the exertion that occurs during exercise. For instance, there is a marked increase in the rate of ventilation and pulmonary blood flow. The trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles also become wider to allow more air to flow into the lungs.

  3. Surface Area
    Many parts of the lungs, including the alveoli, are folded. This creates more surface area, which maximises gas exchange rates.

  4. Ventilation
    The lungs are well-ventilated, so that a new supply of air is constantly brought in. This is critical for maintaining the concentration gradients that make gas exchange possible. Essentially, carbon dioxide diffuses from an area of its higher concentration (the blood) to one of its lower (lungs). Oxygen does the opposite. The excellent ventilation in the lungs makes this possible.