Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Nose.—The olfactory organ is poorly developed, and it is still a question whether birds possess much power of smell; many are certainly devoid of it.

The olfactory perceptive membrane is restricted to the posterior innermost region of the nasal chamber, where it covers a slight bulging-out prominence on the nasal wall. This so-called third, upper or posterior conch is not a true conch, nor is that of the vestibulum; only the middle one forms a scroll, and this corresponds to the only one of reptiles and the lower of the mammals. The nasal cavity communicates with the mouth by the choanae or posterior nares, situated between the palatine process of the maxillary, the palatine and the vomer. The outer nares or nostrils are most variable in size and shape. In the Steganopodes they tend to become much reduced, e.g. in cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae), and especially in Sula, where the nasal slits become completely closed up, and the greater portion of the nasal cavity is also abolished, being restricted to the olfactory region with its unusually wide choanae. The nasal septum is often more or less incomplete, producing nares peniae, e.g. in the Cathartae, in the Anseres, gulls, rails and various other aquatic birds. The secretions of the mucous membrane of the nasal cavity, and a pair of naso-lacrymal glands (not to be confounded with the Harderian and the lacrymal glands), moisten and clean the chamber. The glands are variable in size and position; when very large, e.g. in plovers, they extend upon the forehead, causing deep impressions on the bones of the skull. Jacobson’s organ has been lost by the birds, apparently without a trace in the embryonic fowl, but T. J. Parker has described vestiges of the corresponding cartilages in the Apteryx (Phil. Trans., 1890).

See C. Gegenbaur, “Über die Nasenmuscheln der Vögel,” Jena Zeitschr. vii., 1873, pp. 1-21.

5. Vascular System.

The heart lies in the middle line of the body, its long axis being parallel with that of the trunk. The whole ventral surface of the pericardium is exposed when the sternum is removed. The right and left halves are completely divided by septa, no mixture of the venous and arterial blood being possible, an advance upon reptilian conditions, even the highest.

The atria are comparatively small, the walls being thin, especially those of the right, which possesses numerous muscular ridges projecting into the cavity presenting a honeycombed appearance. The interauricular septum is mostly entirely membranous; in the middle it is thinner, rather transparent, but there is no depression or fossa ovalis. The whole sinus venosus has become part of the right atrium. It receives the three great venous trunks of the body, namely the vena cava superior dextra, the vena cava superior sinistra more dorsally, and the vena cava inferior more to the right and below; the opening of the last is guarded by two prominent valves in place of the mammalian valvula Eustachii. The right ventricle occupies the ventral portion of the heart. The communication with the atrium is guarded by a valvula cardiaca dextra, which only in function represents the mammalian tricuspid; it consists of an oblique reduplication of the muscular fibres together with the endocardiac lining of the right ventricle, while the opposite wall is convex and forms neither a velum nor papillary muscles, nor chordae tendineae. The right anterior corner of the right ventricle passes into the short stem, guarded by three semi-lunar valves, which divides into the two pulmonary arteries. There are likewise two pulmonary veins, entering the left atrium by one orifice. Two or three membranous flaps, held by numerous chordae tendineae, form a true mitral valve, and allow the blood to pass through the left ostium atrioventriculare. The blood leaves the heart past three semi-lunar valves, by the right aorta, this being alone functional, a feature characteristic of, and peculiar to, birds. Remnants of the left aortic arch persist sometimes in the shape of a ligamentous strand. The aortic trunk is very short, sends off the coronary arteries and then the left aorta brachiocephalica, while the rest divides into the right brachiocephalic and the aorta descendens. Each brachiocephalic soon sends off its subclavian, while in the normal or more usual cases the rest proceeds as the carotid trunk, inclusive of the vertebral artery. But the carotids show several interesting modifications which have been examined chiefly by C. L. Nitzsch and by A. H. Garrod. (1) The right and left carotids converge towards the middle and extend up the neck, imbedded in a furrow along the ventral surface of the cervical vertebrae. This is the usual arrangement. (2) The two carotids are fused into one carotis conjuncta, imbedded in a special median osseous semicanal of the vertebrae; e.g. herons, flamingos, and some parrots. (3) There is one carotis conjuncta, but the basal portion of its original right component is obliterated, leaving a so-called c. primaria sinistra, an unfortunate name. Such Aves laevocarotidinae of Garrod are common, e.g. all the Passeriformes. (4) The reverse of the third modification, producing a c. primaria dextra in the bustard Eupodotis. In other likewise very rare cases a left, or a left and right, superficial carotids are developed and take the place of the then vanished deep or primary carotids.

Venous System.—The bird’s liver receives nearly all the blood from the stomach, gut, pancreas and spleen, as well as from the left liver itself, into the right hepatic lobe, by a right and left portal vein. The venae hepaticae magnae join the vena cava posterior and thereby form with it the vena cava inferior. The left hepatica magna receives also the umbilical vein, which persists on the visceral surface of the abdominal wall, often anastomosing with the epigastric veins. A likewise unpaired vena coccygeo-mesenterica is usually present. There is no renal portal system, excepting unimportant vestiges of such a system in the head kidneys.

Lymphatic System.—The white blood-corpuscles are produced in the follicles at the base of the intestinal villi. The lymph vessels of the tail and hinder parts of the body enter the hypogastric veins; and at the point of junction, on either side, lies a small lymph heart, which often persists until maturity. The red blood-corpuscles are invariably oval disks, with a central nucleus which causes a slight swelling; hence they are oval and biconvex.

See A. H. Garrod, “On the Carotid Arteries of Birds,” Proc. Zool. Soc., 1873, pp. 457-472; E. A. Lauth, “Mémoire sur les vaisseaux lymphatiques des oiseaux,” Ann, Sci. nat. (iii. 1824), p. 381; J. J. Mackay, “The Development of the Branchial Arterial Arches in Birds, with special reference to the Origin of the Subclavians and Carotids,” Phil. Trans. 179 B (1888), pp. 111-141; L. A. Neugebauer, “Systema venosum avium,” Nov. Act. Leopold. Carol. xxi., 1844, pp. 517-698, 15 pls.; R. Gasch, “Beiträge zur vergl. Anatomie des Herzens der Vögel und Reptilien,” Arch. f. Naturgesch., 1888.

6. Respiratory System.

The lungs are small and occupy only the dorsal portion of the thoracic cavity. There is only one right and one left lobe, each traversed through its whole length by a mesobronchium, whence arise about ten secondary bronchia; these send off radially arranged parabronchia, which end blindly near the surface. The walls of these tertiary tubes send out, in all directions, canaliculi aeriferi which, ending in slight swellings, recall the mammalian aveoli.

Highly specialized air-sacs are characteristic of all birds. They are very thin-walled membranes, very poor in blood-vessels, formed by the bulged-out pleural or peritoneal covering of the lungs, through the parabronchial tubes of which they are filled with air. Their function is not quite clear. The usual suggestion, that the warm air contained within them assists the bird in flight, balloon-like, is absurd. They assist in the extremely rapid and vigorous ventilation of the lungs, the latter being capable of but very limited expansion and contraction in birds. Exchange of gas through the walls of the air-sacs, almost devoid of blood-vessels, can at best be much restricted.

There are five pairs of larger sacs belonging to the pulmonary system:—(1) prebronchial or cervical, extending sometimes far up the neck, even into the cranial cavities; the throat-bags of the prairie fowls (Cupidonia and Pedioecetes) are a further development; (2) subbronchial or interclavicular; (3 and 4) anterior and posterior thoracic or intermediate; (5) abdominal sacs. Most of these extend through narrow apertures—foramina pneumatica—into the hollow bones, sometimes, e.g. in hornbills and screamers, into every part of the skeleton, or, in the shape of innumerable pneumatic cells, even beneath the skin. There is also a naso-pharyngeal or tympanic system of air-sacs, restricted to the head (cf. the siphonium described in connexion with the mandible), but filling also such curious organs as the frontal excrescence of Chasmorhynchus, the Brazilian bell-bird, the throat-bag of the adjutant stork, and the gular pouch of the bustard.

The trachea or windpipe is strengthened by numerous cartilaginous, often osseous, complete rings, but in the emeu several of these rings are incomplete in the medioventral line, and permit the inner lining of the trachea to bulge out into a large neck-pouch, which is used by both sexes as a resounding bag. In humming-birds and petrels the trachea is partly divided by a vertical, longitudinal, cartilaginous septum. In some of those birds which have a peculiarly harsh or trumpeting voice, the trachea is lengthened, forming loops which lie subcutaneously (capercally, curassow), or it enters and dilates the symphysis of the furcula (crested guineafowl); or, e.g. in the cranes and in the hooper swan, even the whole crest of the sternum becomes invaded by the much elongated, manifolded trachea.

The syrinx or lower larynx is the most interesting and absolutely avine modification, although absent as a voice-producing organ (probably due to retrogression) in most Ratitae, storks, turkey buzzards (Cathartes) and Steganopodes. The syrinx is a modification of the lower part of the trachea and of the adjoining bronchi. Essential are vibrating membranes between the cartilaginous framework, and next, special muscles for regulating the tension. The majority of birds possess a pair of internal tympaniform membranes forming the inner or median walls of the bronchi, which are there furnished with semi-rings only. External tympaniform membranes