Scientists Identify Likely Origins of Vertebrate Air Breathing
University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists have identified what they think is the ancestral trait that allowed for the evolution of air breathing in vertebrates.
“To breathe air with a lung you need more than a lung, you need neural circuitry that is sensitive to carbon dioxide,” said Michael Harris, lead researcher of a team that will present their research at the 42nd annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. “It’s the neural circuitry that allows air-breathing organisms to take in oxygen, which cells need to convert food into energy, and expel the waste carbon dioxide resulting from that process,” he said. “I’m interested in where that carbon-dioxide-sensitive neural circuit, called a rhythm generator, came from.” Harris and colleagues think that air breathing likely evolved in an ancestral vertebrate that did not have a lung, but did have a rhythm generator.