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Humans are the only species that can choke on their food?

In chapter 5 we discuss the advantages for speech and singing provide by the descended larynx in humans. An oft made observation that comes along with this, is that humans are the only species that can choke on their food!


I've done some further research into this question, and the information I've been able to find suggests "it depends"--as so many of our answers do in this journey. It depends on how you define choking (see the definition of sound in Chapter 1!). If you define choking as simply not being able to breathe, then just about any animal can choke, of course! But if you define choking as having an obstruction in the trachea, then the descending of the larynx into the pharynx helps to show why this (almost-see below!) only occurs in humans. Humans are (almost) the only animals that cannot breathe and eat at the same time. The best discussion of this phenomenon I have been able to find appears here: https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/1133/can-any-other-animal-choke-on-food. It contains some really useful illustrations towards the end of the discussion that help to illuminate the anatomical differences between humans and other mammals that cause the phenomenon.


Also note, above, that I qualified "only species" above as "almost." Here is an article that discusses other species with descending larynxes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1088793/pdf/PB011669.pdf, specifically in this case, "red and fallow deer."

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