Cetaceans possess diverse adaptations in respiratory structure and mechanics that are highly specialized for an array of surfacing and diving behaviors. Some of these adaptations and air management strategies are still not completely understood despite over a century of study. We have compiled the historical and contemporary knowledge of cetacean lung anatomy and mechanics in regards to normal lung function during ventilation and air management while diving. New techniques are emerging utilizing pulmonary mechanics to measure lung function in live cetaceans. Given the diversity of respiratory adaptations in cetaceans, interpretations of these results should consider species-specific anatomy, mechanics, and behavior. J. Morphol. 274:1425–1440, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.