In mammals - and that includes us humans - the lungs make up 7% of the total body volume. This allows us to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, thanks to the pulmonary alveoli.

But bird lungs are unrivaled. They make up 15% of the total body volume. Gas does not mix between in- and ex- halation.

If we humans have a unidirectional respiratory system like a bird's, how would it affect the following?

  • Athletics
  • Vocalization
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As for the second part, may I recommend looking up the Syrinx? The answer is "quite very different" because birds' syrinx is quite different from our vocal chords. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 14 '15 at 23:56

Athletic performance would obviously be improved though we might sound a bit different. Birds are able to fly for such extended periods of time because their aerobic capacity is so much higher than mammals.

Humans with continuous breath so pausing for a breath on an extended soprano high note will be a thing of the past. There won't be a distinction anymore between whistling while breathing in or breathing out since the vocal cords will be serviced by the outgoing trachea.

  • $\begingroup$ How would the athletics be improved? $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Oct 15 '15 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ Double volume of lungs = double oxygen intake = double speed metabolism = no more gasping or getting out of breath. Also, birds have a different channel for inhaling and exhaling which means the speed of inhalation would also be doubled, implying yet more oxygen intake. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Oct 15 '15 at 10:14

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