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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

Pelvic aspiration in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
C.G. Farmer, D.R. Carrier


The pelvis of crocodilians is highly derived in that the pubic bones are isolated from the acetabulum and are attached to the ischia via moveable joints. We examined the possible role of this unusual morphology in lung ventilation by measuring ventilation, abdominal pressure and the electrical activity of several abdominal and pelvic muscles in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). We found that the activity of two pelvic muscles, the ischiopubis and ischiotruncus muscles, was correlated with inspiration; these muscles rotate the pubes ventrally and thereby increase abdominal volume. During expiration, contraction of the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis rotates the pubes dorsally. We suggest that this mechanism facilitates diaphragmatic breathing by creating space for caudal displacement of the viscera during inspiration. Because birds also use a dorso-ventral movement of the pelvis to effect ventilation, some form of pelvic aspiration may be plesiomorphic for archosaurs.