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I think the spiracles ["operculums"] of the creatures from James Cameron's Avatar are really interesting and am thinking on using the idea for the fauna of a planet. In the movies, the humanoid species of Pandora, the Na'vi (and their possible evolutionary ancestor, the prolemuris), breathe through their noses and consequently don't have breathing holes. I want my humanoid species to have them, though.

I saw this question here so I know that most vertebrates have separate smelling and breathing systems, but I'm wondering where would it make the most sense for a bipedal creature, in terms of evolution and efficiency. My first thought would be at the sides of the neck, but wouldn't it make more sense to have them closer to the lungs, so the chest?

In case it is relevant: I envision them to smell through nostrils, so some sort of connection between the nose-equivalent and the breathing holes would be beneficial, I think? But I can scrap the 'nose' if it makes no sense. The species is bipedal and human-like except for the breathing mechanism and possibly noses, at least for now. Let's assume the world is like earth, in terms of its air composition and the make-up of things.

I hope this is not opinion-based or a debate, but can edit and clarify if needed.


Description: "The operculum is a nostril-like opening found on many Pandoran animals that is used to take in air for respiration. [...] Operculum are typically placed near the animal's neck or chest in either pairs or columns. They tend to be in close proximity to the lungs, allowing animals to breathe more efficiently. During intense movement (i.e running or flying), air flows through the lungs in a continuous stream, providing a more active gas exchange, thus increasing efficiency. Despite the presence of this duct system, most animals tend to breathe in and out at rest, probably by closing the back openings with valves and allowing air to enter by expanding the chest. Since the animal's head is not directly involved in breathing, many Pandoran animals have a special muscular tube that conducts air to the vocal cords and allows them to make rather loud sounds."

enter image description here


EDIT 2: Added two close up pictures from the new game, one closed, one opened.

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Operc$\rightarrow$u$\leftarrow$lum. Means "little covering thing" in Latin. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 25 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ Do you need them to be able to speak? if so, then through what? $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Escapeddentalpatient. -- Gastric eructation. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jan 25 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ Do you mean spiracle, an opening; or operculum, a flap-like covering? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jan 25 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ you should probably better describe what you want for the people who have not seen the movie. this will also help with the problems of asking about third party works. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 25 at 21:57

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I've seen Avatar, but know nothing of its backstory. I did notice the respiratory system of some of the animals. I imagined it functioned more of the way avian lungs operate. Where air sacs act like bellows and draw air through rigid lungs.

Placing the lungs near the limbs helped "pump the bellows" increasing air flow and efficiency. I the case of a humanoid with a common ancestor, I think the breathing holes would locate around the hypochondriac region, or under the arms just below the pectorals, so that the arms could better protect the potentially vulnerable area as well as aiding in "bellows pumping"

I was puzzled however at how the creatures in the movies prevented debris from being inhaled.

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  • $\begingroup$ I added a description from the link and a picture. I think they are able to close the "nostrils" with skin flaps, but maybe they have a little filter that gets rid of debris when they are open, no idea. The positioning you suggested is interesting! They would need to be able to close the nostrils, lest e.g. water gets inside when they swim, but that shouldn’t be an issue I think. I can handwave a little regarding air flow to the vocal cords, so they are still able to speak $\endgroup$ Jan 26 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ @SaintDiabolus RIght, It makes sense that they can close off the openings, but that makes it hard to breath. In humans we have, acilia and vibrissae (nose hairs) also smaller cilia. But for the aesthetic I think you are looking for I am not sure just hair would work in such a large opening. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Jan 26 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, if the hairs weren't bushy enough to see them, but fine like for example whiskers or even finer, they might still filter out debris? Or they are further down, so not immediately visible from afar? $\endgroup$ Jan 27 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ I've added pictures from the new Avatar game to the main body. It doesn't look like the creatures have protection from debris, which is odd. Are there any ways to add that without hairs? $\endgroup$ Jan 29 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ I have no good ideas around this problem. Maybe a post as a follow-up question in a second post? Not at my pc. But pics reminds me of jet intakes. One thing Russian fighter jets are good at is taking off on dirty runways, which would destroy american aircraft. Maybe something to look into? $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Jan 29 at 20:07

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