The Respiratory System: Structure and Function

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  • supplies oxygen to cells and removes carbon dioxide
  • defending the body against invasion of microorganisms
  • control the body’s blood pH


Ventilation (breathing) > inhalation and exhalation; take in oxygen and dispose of carbon dioxide

External Respiration > the exchange of gases between the alveoli and the blood

Internal Respiration > exchange of gases between the blood and tissue cells

Respiratory System The Respiratory System: Structure and Function

Organ Structure Function
Nasal cavity - lined with capillaries; warm air to 37°C

- secrete mucus; moisten and filter air

- lined with cilia; filter out debris in the air

- warms, moistens and filters air entering the respiratory system
Pharynx - path that connects nasal cavity to the trachea
Epiglottis - a tiny flap of connective tissue - prevents food from entering the trachea during swallowing

- prevents air from entering the stomach when breathing in

Larynx - made up of cartilage

- contains the vocal cords; two highly elastic folds

- to produce sound for communication
Trachea - a hollow tube surrounded by tough, flexible C-shaped cartilage rings

- lined with cilia

- lined with mucus secreting cells

- allows air to pass from the pharynx into the lungs

- cartilage rings prevent the trachea from collapsing and provide it with support

Lung - composed of the bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli - the main organs of the respiratory system
Bronchi - branch out of the trachea

- hollow tubes surrounded by cartilage rings

- lined with cilia and mucus secreting cells

- to carry the air into the lungs
Bronchioles - branch out of the bronchi

- large bronchioles secrete mucous and are lined with cilia

- to decrease in size and carry air to the alveoli
Alveoli - clusters of tiny hollow air sacs; the ends of the smallest bronchioles

- surrounded by an extensive network of capillaries

- very small structures with very high surface area

- are the sites of gas exchange

lungs The Respiratory System: Structure and Function

Respiratory Membrane

  • wall of alveoli and wall of capillaries come together for form a respiratory membrane
  • gas exchange occurs across the respiratory membrane

Gas Exchange

  • exchange of gases (O2 & CO2) between the alveoli & the blood occurs by simple diffusion
  • diffusion requires a concentration gradient
  • the surface of the alveoli must be moist so that diffusion can occur


St. Rosemary Educational Institution. "The Respiratory System: Structure and Function." St. Rosemary Educational Institution, Last Update: 2014. Web. Retrieved on: Friday 18th April 2014.
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