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Alligator Lungs

April 3, 2008

Alligators use their lungs to help them sneak up on prey.


A sneaky swimmer’s secret…. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Alligators are experts at maneuvering through the water without causing a ripple. And they do this without the benefit of having fins or flippers, like other aquatic animals. Now, scientists have learned one key to the gator’s stealthy swimming style. T.J. Uriona, a graduate student at the University of Utah, measured the muscle activity of young gators as they swam in a tank. He found that they use their lungs like flotation devices, shifting them backward to dive and forward to surface.

URIONA (University of Utah):
It’s not only from front to back but they could also fire muscles on one side of the body / and not on the other and that was correlated with rolling to one side or the other.

Uriona says the ability to move through the water this way gives gators an advantage when sneaking up on prey. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.