Is there an estimate for when the ability of sneezing evolved? A little bit of research, and some critical review of my memories tell me that:

  • Many, if not maybe all mammals sneeze.
  • Some reptiles sneeze, like turtles and iguanas.
  • According to this answer, I see some consider also some fish and even sponges to be capable of sneezing. However, I'd be curious to know if this is the actual same concept of sneezing, and not a stretch of definition, given that fish and sponges don't have lungs!

If it's common among mammals, I infer that it is very likely that this ability exists since at least 200 million years. I'd in fact suspect to be very unlikely that all mammals developed it independently after branching out from common ancestors. I am confident the sneezing of turtles is really comparable to ours and that although more explosive, also iguanas'. These reptiles (according to my superficial and inexperience Google research) are known to exist since more than 215 and 190 million years respectively.

However, I don't know how old a common ancestors of turtles, iguanas, and mammals can be dated. Or how likely it is that they independently developed this skill.

I'd be very curious to know if any expert ever dated this ability.

  • $\begingroup$ I went and read the article indicating sponges sneeze here cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/… . The authors appear to define sneezing as any method of expelling unwanted or potentially harmful material, which imo makes sense for fish as well. Sponges use a much more basic intracellular communication system to identify unwanted material and trigger its expulsion, but the concept is the same. $\endgroup$
    – Astrolamb
    Dec 6 '18 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Astrolamb thanks for the information. For what concerns my question however I'd say that's stretching the concept. I'm curious to know about our specific way of sneezing, which is still found in many other animals. According to that large definition arguably also urinating, spitting, crying, and sweating could find a fit. Not sure how our sneezing can be defined in biology though. $\endgroup$
    – raggot
    Dec 13 '18 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Astrolamb Throwing up and coughing also fits that definition. $\endgroup$
    – d-b
    Apr 2 '19 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ @raggot Sneezing (and ejaculation!) is a kind of cramp. That rules out several of the behaviours on your list. $\endgroup$
    – d-b
    Apr 2 '19 at 22:45

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