Parsons, Thomas S. Ramsay Wright Zoological Laboratories, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Last reviewed:July 2021
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The complex of cartilages and related structures at the opening of the trachea (windpipe) into the pharynx (throat). The larynx, commonly known as the voice box, is a hollow cartilaginous organ (see illustration) that is considered part of the respiratory system. Air passes through the larynx on its way to the lungs. Structurally, the larynx is composed of cartilages, which are derivatives of the primitive gill-bar system. Their original function is to act as a protective sphincter at the entrance of the air passage into the throat. When this is the only function, the structure is quite simple, with only one or two pairs of cartilages. In humans and many other mammals, the larynx holds the vocal cords (a pair of elastic, fibered muscle bands). See also: Cartilage; Larynx disorders; Pharynx; Respiratory system; Throat; Vocal cord
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