Respiratory gas exchange by the avian embryo

O. Douglas Wangensteen, Hermann Rahn

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131 Scopus citations


The mechanism of gas exchange by an avian embryo is discussed in terms of the embryo's changing metabolic rate, a constant egg shell gas permeability and the changing gas tensions inside the shell. Since gas transport across the shell is by diffusion, equations are developed which predict the gas composition in the air cell of the egg as well as the rate of exchange of O2 CO2 and water vapor. PO2 and PCO2 values were obtained from the air cells of chick embryos of various ages, and when these results are considered together with metabolic rate and measured egg shell permeability data they are found to be consistent with the hypothesis that gas exchange by the avian embryo is limited by diffusion through its porous shell. The implications of this are discussed in terms of water vapor loss from the egg during incubation, development of the embryo's blood buffer system and the importance of the permeability of the egg shell to embryo survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalRespiration Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1970


  • Avian embryo
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Diffusion
  • Egg shell
  • Gas exchange
  • Oxygen
  • Water vapor


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