The last time I came across this question was when I was in high school. And the explanation I was given is that epiglottis works like a valve, it prevents foods from getting into the windpipe. Still, if I google the majority of the top results agree with this answer. Recently I got interested in rabbit anatomy after I bought a pair as pets. I learned they are "obligate nose breathers due to their epiglottis positioned rostrally to the soft palate". Then I tried to revise my understanding of epiglottis and that let to some sources that claim that epiglottis is not essential for swallowing. For example:
It was at one time thought that the epiglottis acted as " the lid of the larynx"; it was supposed that during deglutition it fell back like a flap over the laryngeal aperture in order to prevent ingress of food or water. This erroneous view as dispelled by Stuart, who proved that during swallowing the epiglottis actually moved forwards, to be squeezed between the base of the tongue and the rest of the larynx. This view cannot be disputed by anyone capable of judging, and the truth of it is borne out when observing a patient whose epiglottis has been almost entirely destroyed by lupus, but whose powers of swallowing remains unaffected.
Negus, VE (1927). "The Function of the Epiglottis". Journal of Anatomy.
Controversy has continued for well over 100 years regarding the role of the epiglottis in deglutition. We describe the effect of isolated epiglottectomy on swallowing success in a case series of 3 adult human subjects with isolated epiglottectomy due to trauma, surgery, or cancerous erosion. The patients were 42, 51, and 70 years of age, and swallowing was analyzed objectively with videofluoroscopy. All subjects exhibited successful swallowing with all food types: thin liquid, puree, and solid food. Specifically, the patient with traumatic epiglottectomy exhibited rapid swallowing success, the patient with surgical epiglottectomy exhibited a short period of dysphagia due to postoperative edema, followed by swallowing success, and the patient with epiglottectomy due to cancerous erosion of the entire epiglottis exhibited long-term adaptation, with successful swallowing maintained. We conclude that the epiglottis is not essential for successful swallowing in humans, because individuals can readily adapt to isolated epiglottectomy and avoid tracheal aspiration.
Leder, Steven B et al. “Epiglottis is not essential for successful swallowing in humans.” The Annals of otology, rhinology, and laryngology vol. 119,12 (2010): 795-8.
Judging from google searches and Wikipedia entry on the topic it seems the dominant view is: epiglottis prevents food from getting into the trachea. But many research like the ones I have mentioned above says that people can swallow without epiglottis. How to make sense of these apparently contradictory claims?
Edit: My question is not the same as the question suggested. The suggested question seeks the function of "hyoepiglottic ligament" which is a ligament that connects epiglottis "to the upper border of the body of the hyoid bone". My question is related to the function of epiglottis itself in the background of contradictory claims found in the literature.