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Alligator Lungs

April 3, 2008

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

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
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.

HIRSHON:
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.