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Control of Breathing in Invertebrate Model Systems

  1. Harold J. Bell1,
  2. Naweed I. Syed2

Published Online: 1 JUL 2012

DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c100040

Comprehensive Physiology

Comprehensive Physiology

How to Cite

Bell, H. J. and Syed, N. I. 2012. Control of Breathing in Invertebrate Model Systems. Comprehensive Physiology. 2:1745–1766.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Department of Medicine, Penn State University, Hershey, Pennsylvania

  2. 2

    Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 JUL 2012


The invertebrates have adopted a myriad of breathing strategies to facilitate the extraction of adequate quantities of oxygen from their surrounding environments. Their respiratory structures can take a wide variety of forms, including integumentary surfaces, lungs, gills, tracheal systems, and even parallel combinations of these same gas exchange structures. Like their vertebrate counterparts, the invertebrates have evolved elaborate control strategies to regulate their breathing activity. Our goal in this article is to present the reader with a description of what is known regarding the control of breathing in some of the specific invertebrate species that have been used as model systems to study different mechanistic aspects of the control of breathing. We will examine how several species have been used to study fundamental principles of respiratory rhythm generation, central and peripheral chemosensory modulation of breathing, and plasticity in the control of breathing. We will also present the reader with an overview of some of the behavioral and neuronal adaptability that has been extensively documented in these animals. By presenting explicit invertebrate species as model organisms, we will illustrate mechanistic principles that form the neuronal foundation of respiratory control, and moreover appear likely to be conserved across not only invertebrates, but vertebrate species as well. © 2012 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 2:1745-1766, 2012.