The respiratory system is situated in the thorax, and is responsible for gaseous exchange between the circulatory system and the outside world. Air is taken in via the upper airways (the nasal cavity, pharynx and larynx) through the lower airways (trachea, primary bronchi and bronchial tree) and into the small bronchioles and alveoli within the lung tissue.
Move the pointer over the coloured regions of the diagram; the names will appear at the bottom of the screen)
The lungs are divided into lobes; The left lung is composed of the upper lobe, the lower lobe and the lingula (a small remnant next to the apex of the heart), the right lung is composed of the upper, the middle and the lower lobes.
To take a breath in, the external intercostal muscles contract, moving the ribcage up and out. The diaphragm moves down at the same time, creating negative pressure within the thorax. The lungs are held to the thoracic wall by the pleural membranes, and so expand outwards as well. This creates negative pressure within the lungs, and so air rushes in through the upper and lower airways.
Expiration is mainly due to the natural elasticity of the lungs, which tend to collapse if they are not held against the thoracic wall. This is the mechanism behind lung collapse if there is air in the pleural space (pneumothorax).