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1) To train students to dissect fish, insect and small mammal

2) To train students how to use dissecting instruments
3) To increase student¶s skill in displaying, drawing and labelling respiratory
4) To enable students to examine the structures of the main organs involved in
respiration (lung, trachea, diaphragm, rib cage and intercostals muscle).
5) To increase student understanding of the process of gas exchange in

Respiration is a vital living process carried out by all living organisms.
Respiration can be divided into two stages that are external respiration and internal
respiration. External respiration is a mechanical process that maintains a continuous
exchange of gases between the respiratory surfaces of an organism and its
environment. For most organisms, the exchange of gases occurs through a
specialised structure called the respiratory structure. Internal respiration is the
biochemical process in which energy is made available to all living cells. This
process involves the oxidation of organic molecules to release the chemical energy
stored within molecules. There are two types of cellular respiration that are aerobic
respiration and anaerobic respirat ion.

 !"Various types of animals have different types of respiratory system.


Respiration is the process by which living things break down some kinds of
food chemicals in their bodies and use them as a source of energy. To do so this,
most living things need a supply of oxygen and a means of removing the waste
carbon dioxide. The pr ocess of gas exchange, by which oxygen is made to enter the
body and carbon dioxide to leave it, is called breathing. Larger animals have special
organs to make this process very rapid and efficient: examples are the lungs of
humans and other mammals and the gills of fish. Respiration, of which breathing is a
necessary part, is a complex chemical breakdown process in which energy from food
(chemical-potential energy) is made available for all life -processes, including the
movement of muscle and the building up of new and replacement tissues.

Respiration is sometimes said to be rather like a process of burning, with food

as the fuel. This is fundamentally misleading. Burning is a high -temperature process
in which fuel and oxygen are combined chemically very rapidly, so that the burning
material and the environment are strongly heated. In contrast to this, respiration is
low-temperature process in which food is broken down and energy transferred in a
series of controlled steps, so there is much less heating an d the energy can be
transferred in ways which the body can use.

This extract I¶ve taken from Understanding Primary Science book written by Martin


Rats/guinea pig/ white mice, cockroaches, bony fish, dissecting board, dissec ting
microscope, hand lens, transparent plastic ruler, and thread.


Dissection of the fish respiratory system

1. The shape of the fish is observed: streamlined, neck less, paired fins and
flexible tail
2. The advantage of having such shapes is found out.
3. Fish bodies are covered with scales. The function of the scales is found out.
4. Bony fishes have a movable operculum or gill -cover protecting the gills.
Number of pairs of gill is found out.
5. The gills are mounted on bony structures called gill arch. Eac h complete gill
consists of a bony gill arch supporting two rows of delicate gill filaments. The
gill filaments are examined under the dissection microscope, they are labelled
and drawn. The blood vessels are found out in the gill filaments.
]. Gaseous exchange takes place in the gill filaments. The characteristic of the
gill filament are described so that an efficient gaseous exchange can happen.
The function of the gill filament is explained.

Dissection of the cockroach respiratory system

External anatomy

1. The cockroach is killed using chloroform in the killing jar.

2. The cockroach is taken and the segmented body parts are identified.
3. The head, thorax and abdomen are drawn and labelled. The number of
segments that make up the head, thorax and abdomen is counted .
4. The exoskeleton is made up of the hard and waxy chitin layer. The legs
attached to are found out.
5. The wings are opened up. The different between the two pairs of wings and
their function are found out.
]. The spiracle at each side of the segment is observed . The number of
spiracles found on the thorax and abdomen is counted. Is there any spiracle
on the thorax?

Internal anatomy

1. The legs and wings of the cockroach is cut

2. From the dorsal posterior to the anterior part, the cockroach is cut gently.
3. The inner part is opened up and it has been observed under the dissection
microscope. Air will flow through the spiracles, trachea and end up in very
fine tubules called tracheoles.
4. Some tissues are got and it is mounted on a slide. A drop of water is put and
the cover slip is lowered gently.
5. The tissues are examined under microscope. The respiratory tract is drawn
and labelled (trachea and tracheoles).

Dissection of the mammalian respiratory system

1. The rat is pinned to the dissecting board with the ventral surface uppermost.
2. A mid-ventral incision is made through the skin and is cut forward as far as
lower jaw and the backwards to the anus.
3. The skin is holding with forceps, the connective tissues are cut away between
the skin and the body wall as far as possible around the animals, body and
the skin is pinned back.
4. The ventral and lateral thoracic walls is cut away to expose the thoracic
5. The thymus gland is removed.
]. The muscle and tissues of the neck is cut away to expose the trachea and
7. The larynx is cut above. The connective tissues attached to the trachea is cut
8. The heart, lungs, trachea, esophagus and larynx is remo ved together.
9. The esophagus is separated carefully from the hear t. The larynx, trachea and
lungs are pinned to the board.
10. A large labelled drawing of the structures that I have taken out is made.


Drawing and labelling

Magnification of drawing

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1. The respiratory system of insects is made up of many branching tubes. The

tubes start at openings called spiracles found on the surface of the cockroach.
Air enters the cockroach¶s body through the spiracles. The spiracles are found
in each of the cockroach¶s segments. The larger tubes are called trachea.
Trachea is found close to the cockroach¶s dorsal vessel or heart. The trachea
branch into smaller tubes called tracheoles. The tracheoles surround all of the
insect¶s organs and tissues. Air passes into th e trachea and moves on into the
tracheoles and finally into the body tissues. The oxygen in the air diffuses, or
spreads into the cells that form the tissues. Carbon di oxide leaves the cells
and diffuses back through the tracheal system consisting of the t racheoles
and the trachea and leaves the insect¶s body through the spiracles.

2. The structural adaptation of tracheoles for gaseous exchange is as follows:

_ The tracheoles branch intricately throughout the body of an insect and

penetrate into the body tiss ues
_ This means the tracheoles are close to each body cell and can channel
oxygen directly to the cells in different parts of the body.
_ The larger number of tracheoles provides a large surface area for the
diffusion of gases.
_ The tips of the tracheoles have thin permeable walls and contain fluid
in which the respiratory gases can dissolve.
_ Air enters the trachea through the spiracles and travels through teh
tracheoles to the fluid -filled tips.
_ Oxygen in the fluid diffuses directly from the tracheoles into t he cells,
and carbon dioxide diffuses out from the cells into the tracheoles.

3. The breathing mechanism of insects goes as follows:

_ Insects inhale and exhale through the rhythmic contraction and

expansion of their abdominal muscles.
_ The body movements and the contractions of abdominal muscles
speed up the rate of diffusion of gases from the trachea into the body
_ When an insect inhales, the abdominal muscles relax and the spiracles
_ Air pressure inside the trachea decreases and air is drawn in.
_ When the insect exhales, the abdominal muscles contract.
_ The increased air pressure forces air out through the spiracles.
_ This is because the tracheal tubes of insects carry oxygen from the air
directly to body cells, the circulatory system is not involved in
transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide.

4. Gills are specialised respiratory structures for gaseous exchange in water.

Bony fish have four pairs of gills: four on the right and four on the left. The gills
are supported by a gill arch and protected by th e operculum. Each gill has two
rows of thin filaments arranged in a V shaped. These filaments consist of
numerous thin-walled lamellae.

5. The structural adaptation of gills for gaseous exchange:

_ The large surface area of the filaments and lamellae increas es the
efficiency of gaseous exchange in fish.
_ The membrane of the gill filaments is thin to allow the absorption of
respiratory gases into the blood capillaries.
_ The filaments are also supplied with blood capillaries for an efficient
exchange and transpo rt of respiratory gases.
_ The gill filaments which are constantly surrounded by water enable
respiratory gases to dissolve in them.
_ The efficiency of the gaseous exchange is further enhanced by the
countercurrent exchange mechanism at the respiratory surf ace.
_ The countercurrent flow maximises the oxygen transfer because as
water flows over the gills in one direction, the blood flows in the
opposite direction through the blood capillaries in the lamellae.
_ This means that as deoxygenated blood enters the bl ood capillaries, it
encounters water with higher oxygen content.
_ So, the concentration gradient in the blood enters the blood capillaries
allows the diffusion of oxygen into the blood to take place.
_ The efficiency of fish gills is further increased by vent ilation, that is, the
increase in the flow of water over the respiratory surface.
_ Fish ventilate by swimming and by opening and closing operculum.
_ This draws freshwater into their mouth which then passes over the

]. The rat¶s body is divided into a head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax and
abdomen are separated internally by the diaphragm, a large muscle. There
are four limbs (which terminate in digits with claws), and a long tail. The eyes,
ears, vibrissae (whiskers), and external nares (nostrils), all of which give the
rat sensory information.

7. The respiratory system of rat consists of two lungs and the passages by which
their internal cavities are connected to the exterior. Starting ante riorly, these
cavities include the nasal cavities, which are separated from one another by
the nasal septum and from the buccal cavity by the palate. The pharynx is
divided into the naso -pharynx above the palate, and the oro-pharynx behind
the buccal cavity. The edge of the soft palate acts as a valve to prevent food
from passing into the naso -pharynx and then into the nasal cavities during
swallowing. The opening from the pharynx into the larynx, or voice box, is
called the glottis. As mentioned previously, the glottis is closed over, during
swallowing of food, with a gate -like epiglottis, to prevent the passage of food
into the larynx and lower respiratory passages.

8. The external features and their functions for respiratory system of a rat are as
_ Diaphragm- This is a muscular sheet that separates cavities and its
action is to draws air into t he lungs.
_ Ear, Whisker, Nostril, Eyes ± The sensory organs
_ Tail ± For balance
_ Claws ± For defense, eating, grasping and climbing

9. The organ that are involved in the mechanism of respiratory system are as

_ Mouth and Nostril ± Intake for air

_ Larynx ± produce sound for communication
_ Trachea ± Tube to bring air into lungs
_ Bronchus ± Branches into lungs
_ Lung ± Exchange oxygen form air into blood an expel carbon dioxide
_ Diaphragm - Muscle that helps fill lung with air

10. Here is the mechanism of respiratory system for rat. When air enters the rat¶s
respiratory system through its nostrils or mouth, it will goes into the throat and
then into the trachea, a hollow tube supported by cartilaginous rings that
should be visible in the thoracic cavity. The trachea branches into two
bronchi, which divide further into smaller branches and sacs that make up the
lungs. The two lungs are on either side of the heart. In preserved animals,
they appear small and dense, but are much larger and sponge -like when they
are filled with air in the living animal.

11. Precaution that should be taken:

_ Dissecting tools will be used to open the body cavity of the rat and
observe the structures. Keep in mind that dissecting does not mean "to
cut up". In fact, it means "to expose to view". Careful dissecting
techniques will be needed to observe all the stru ctures and their
connections to other structures. You will not need to use a scalpel.
Contrary to popular belief, a scalpel is not the best tool for dissection.
Scissors serve better because the point of the scissors can be pointed
upwards to prevent damaging organs underneath.

_ Always raise structures to be cut with your forceps before cutting, so

that you can see exactly what is underneath and where the incision
should be made. Never cut more than is absolutely necessary to
expose a part.


1. a) How many pairs of ribs does this animal have?

10 pairs of ribs for rat

b) How does the rib cage function during gas exchange in this animal

During gas exchange in this animal, the rib cage is pulled upwards and
outwards when inhalation. For e xhalation, the rib cage is pulled downwards and

2. a) Describe the appearance and characteristic of a diaphragm

A diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheet of muscles that lies across the bottom of

the chest cavity. It is also separates the thorax from the abdomen. It
characteristic is elastic.

b) What is the importance of this characteristic of the diaphragm in relation to its

function during gas exchange?
The diaphragm¶s function is to pump the carbon dioxi de out of the lungs and
pull the oxygen into the lungs.

3. Describe the appearance of the left and right lungs. Squeeze the lungs and
note its texture. Place it in hot water. The air within the lung expands causing it
to float.

Right lung is bigger in size and left lung is smaller in size. The lungs contain
millions of air sacs called alveoli. The large number of alveoli provides a large
surface area for gaseous exchange. The inner surface of each alveolus is lined
with a layer of moist epithelial cells whi ch enable oxygen and carbon dioxide to
dissolve in it and diffusion to take place. The entire outer surface of each
alveolus is covered by a dense network of blood capillaries provide a large
surface area to volume ratio for the rapid diffusion and transpo rt of respiratory
gases. The wall of an alveolus is very thin. It is only one -cell thick. This allows
the diffusion of gases across membranes to take place easily.

When the lung is placed in a hot water, the air within the lungs expands
causing it float. Actually, the air is come from alveolus that is situated inside the
lung. Alveolus is air sacs, so if it is placed in a hot water, it will expand because
the air in the alveolus increases its volume due to the higher temperature.

4. Measure the length of the trachea (from the larynx to the point where it
branches into bronchus).

The length of the trachea (from the larynx to the point where it branches into
bronchus) is 1 cm.


The differences in the respiratory system bet ween rat (mammal), cockroach (insect)
and fish are as follows:
a) The respiratory organ for rat involves lungs and it is like human respiratory
b) The respiratory organ for cockroach involves tracheae and it respiratory
system is tracheal system.
c) The respiratory organ for fish involves gills and it respiratory system is gills

Hence, various types of animals have different types of respiratory system. The
hypothesis is accepted.


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Wenham, M. (2005).  


   "# London: Paul Chapman Publishing.