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Thread: Who would suffocate first, elephant or mouse?

  1. #1 Who would suffocate first, elephant or mouse? 
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    When put in a sealed room together, who would suffocate first, an elephant, or a mouse? Say you have a single 20’ x 20’ x 20’ room. Inside of it you put an elephant and a mouse. You then seal the room, airtight. Which one would suffocate first? Assume that they mouse and elephant do not interact in any way, e.g. the elephant does not lie down and crush the mouse. They are also not expending too much energy, as in running around the enclosed space. Since the mouse has smaller lungs, will it die first, not being able to draw in as much oxygen as the elephant? Or will the elephant go first, since it requires much more oxygen than the mouse? Are there more factors here at work? Will they die at the same time?

    By the way, this is purely theoretical, I wish no harm to neither mice nor elephants.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    I'm going to guess the elephant because it requires more oxygen. I was going to flame you for hating elephants and mice but since you added the qualifier at the end there, I had to restrain myself.


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  4. #3  
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    They would both breathe the same concentration of oxygen. The elephant needs more oxygen but will get more because he has bigger lungs. My guess is the mouse dies first because he has a higher metabolic rate. Just a guess, though.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    Don't know the answer, but I am willing to go off on a somewhat related tangent.

    It might depend on the age of the mouse also. You can't easily kill a young mouse with gassing it with CO2, like you can with a older mouse.

    But of course we are dealing here with your standard adult mouse and the standard adult elephant.

    Both need oxygen for their brains. Both are mammals. Both are warmblooded.

    Does size matter here?

    I'm almost inclined to say that it doesn't.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Junior Lucifer's Avatar
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    There are different factors...

    if we assume they're standing on the ground, CO2 is heavier than air so the mouse will be breathing air with more CO2. But this can be solved, let's say the mice is on the elephant's back... That would be good as the elephant is going to suphocate first and we don't want it to crush the mouse...

    Why elephant suphocates first? Size, area and volume. A mammal has got so much lung surface to exchange gasses between blood and air. Now, if an animal is twice the size, it has got 8 times more volume (length to the cube) but only 4 times more lung surface (length square). This is resolved with very convoluted lung surfaces, but convolutions can only go so far.

    So a mouse's tiny body "hangs" less oxygen demand and less CO2 expellion on its lung surface, whereas the bigger elpehant will have a lot more of body mass per lung surface (so will demand more oxygen and will need to expel more CO2 per lung) and so we can assume it will suphocate easier. It's not how big are your lungs, but how many gasses must circulate through them, inside and outside the body...

    That, even if we don't account for heartbeat pace, blood pressure and stress...
    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” -Charles Darwin
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