Help Privacy Policy Disclaimer
  Advanced SearchBrowse




Journal Article

Physical and geometric constraints shape the labyrinth-like nasal cavity


Zwicker,  David
Max Planck Research Group Theory of Biological Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

External Resource
No external resources are shared
Fulltext (restricted access)
There are currently no full texts shared for your IP range.
Fulltext (public)
There are no public fulltexts stored in PuRe
Supplementary Material (public)
There is no public supplementary material available

Zwicker, D., Ostilla-Mónico, R., Lieberman, D. E., & Brenner, M. P. (2018). Physical and geometric constraints shape the labyrinth-like nasal cavity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(12), 2936-2941. doi:10.1073/pnas.1714795115.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-70A3-7
The nasal cavity is a vital component of the respiratory system that heats and humidifies inhaled air in all vertebrates. Despite this common function, the shapes of nasal cavities vary widely across animals. To understand this variability, we here connect nasal geometry to its function by theoretically studying the airflow and the associated scalar exchange that describes heating and humidification. We find that optimal geometries, which have minimal resistance for a given exchange efficiency, have a constant gap width between their side walls, while their overall shape can adhere to the geometric constraints imposed by the head. Our theory explains the geometric variations of natural nasal cavities quantitatively, and we hypothesize that the trade-off between high exchange efficiency and low resistance to airflow is the main driving force shaping the nasal cavity. Our model further explains why humans, whose nasal cavities evolved to be smaller than expected for their size, become obligate oral breathers in aerobically challenging situations.