A scanning and transmission electron microscopic study of the bat lung



The lungs of two adult species of bat Epomophorus wahlbergi and Miniopterus minor fixed with 2.3% glutaraldehyde were processed for SEM (scanning electron microscope) and TEM (transmission electron microscope) examination by the standard procedures. The bat lung comprised a blood and air conducting zone (consisting of bronchi, bronchioles and large blood vessels), the intermediate zone (made up of alveolar ducts), and the respiratory zone, which consisted of alveoli and blood capillaries. The interalveolar septa comprised basically granular pneumocytes (type II cells), squamous pneumocytes (type I cells), endothelial cells, and, in the interstitium, collagen and elastic fibres with occasional fibrocytes. Blood capillaries were interposed in the interalveolar septa, thus bulging into adjacent alveoli. It was noted that grossly, architecturally and structurally, the bat lung was similar to that of a terrestrial mammal. However, in previous morphometric and physiological studies it has been found that bats have a large lung, a thin pulmonary blood-gas barrier, a large pulmonary capillary blood volume, and high haematocrit and haemoglobin concentration. The bat lung, while retaining the basic mammalian pulmonary design, is well adapted to provide the large amount of oxygen demanded by flight. The avian pulmonary design (the lung-air sac system) is thus not a prerequisite to flight.