The vascular lining in the trachea of adult leatherback sea turtles helps them maintain body temperature while foraging in cold water via counter-current exchange.
"[T]he trachea is lined throughout by a continuous vascular plexus. This contains a high proportion of longitudinally arranged, large-diameter blood vessels lying mainly in the deeper two-thirds of the mucosa, with prominent cross-connections between them. The arrangement is consistent with their functioning as a counter-current arrangement, retaining heat and maintaining body temperature…We believe that the vascular lining of the long adult leatherback trachea functions in analogous fashion to nasal turbinates." (Davenport et al. 2009:3445-6)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Davenport J; Fraher J; Fitzgerald E; McLaughlin P; Doyle T; Harman L; Cuffe T; Dockery P. 2009. Ontogenetic changes in tracheal structure facilitate deep dives and cold water foraging in adult leatherback sea turtles. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212(21): 3440-7.
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