A morphometric analysis of the lungs of high-altitude ducks and geese

Ciska Bakkeren, Emily Smith, Julia M. York, Beverly Chua, Kevin G. McCracken, William K. Milsom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We examined the morphology of the lungs of five species of high-altitude resident ducks from Lake Titicaca in the Peruvian Andes (yellow-billed pintail [Anas georgica], cinnamon teal [Anas cyanoptera orinomus], puna teal [Anas puna], speckled teal [Anas flavirostris oxyptera], and ruddy duck [Oxyura jamaicensis ferruginea]) and compared them with those of the high-altitude migratory bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) and the low-altitude migratory barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis). We then determined the relationship between mass-specific lung volume, the volume densities of the component parts of the lung, and previously reported hypoxia-induced increases in pulmonary O2 extraction. We found that the mass-specific lung volumes and the mass-specific volume of the exchange tissue were larger in the lungs of high-altitude resident birds. The bar-headed goose had a mass-specific lung volume that fell between those of the low-altitude species and the high-altitude residents, but a mass-specific volume of exchange tissue that was not significantly different than that of the high-altitude residents. The data suggest that the mass-specific volume of the lung may increase with evolutionary time spent at altitude. We found an inverse relationship between the percentage increase in pulmonary O2 extraction and the percentage increase in ventilation across species that was independent of the volume density of the exchange tissue, at least for the resident Andean birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-196
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • altitude
  • birds
  • hypoxia
  • lungs
  • morphometry
  • pulmonary O extraction
  • pulmonary exchange tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Histology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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