UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Are the lungs and blowhole connected?
Answer 1:

Good question. Yes, the blowhole is connected to the lungs by a windpipe (trachea). The blowhole is the same thing as your nostrils (the holes in your nose). The ancestors of whales and dolphins were land mammals. Mammals that spend a lot of time in the water, like beavers, often evolve nostrils that are high up on their heads. This way they can stay mostly underwater and still breathe.

When a whale or dolphin is developing, long before it is born, its nostrils start out on the end of its nose. As it develops inside its mother, the nostrils move to the top of its head. The babies are born with a blowhole. You can see pictures of this at:
picture . The picture labelled “embryo” is younger than the pictures labelled “fetus.”

What other changes would a land mammal need in order to become adapted to living in the water all of the time?

If you are interested in questions like these, you may want to study anatomy or marine biology.

Thanks for asking,

Answer 2:

Whales and dolphins, aquatic creature who generally require blowholes, are marine mammals. They do not have gills, like fish, to extract oxygen out of the water for in order to survive. They rise to the surface to inhale and exhale. Their blowhole is like our mouth or nose which we use to inhale and exhale. Our mouth and nose are connected to the trachea which ultimately is connected to our lungs. So even for them, their blowhole is connected to the trachea and then the lungs. It is convenient for them that it is at the top of their heads so that they can easily breathe during rest without using a lot of energy and the blowhole does not get involved with eating so food does not get stuck in it.

Answer 3:

The blowhole in marine mammals is equivalent to our nostrils. It can be a single, or double hole that leads first into the trachea and connects to the lungs. Unlike our nostrils however, the whale has strong muscular flaps that cover the blowhole when the whale is under water thus preventing water from entering. Wouldn't it be great if we had the same thing?! I know I hate that feeling of getting water up my nose!

Answer #3 Yes! All mammals have lungs, and whales fill their lungs with air through the blowhole, rather than through a nose or mouth. You can think of a blowhole similar to a nose, and they are connected similarly. Some whales even have two blowholes that look similar to our nostrils. One of the interesting questions about whales is how they can dive so deep with lungs full of air. If you've ever tried to take a sealed bottle of air underwater you can see that it is pushed back up very strongly. Whales fill their lungs with air and then dive deep, and likely compress or flatten their lungs so the air doesn't force them back up. John H. Abel

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use