The epiglottis is elastic cartilage that is attached to the entrance of the larynx and prevents food and liquids from entering the airway.  In humans, the larynx is positioned much lower in body, which results in an increased risk of choking.  The position of the voice box also allows humans to have the diverse range of sounds associated with speech.  On the fetal pig below, the epiglottis can be seen at the back of the mouth.  The word epiglottis means “above the glottis”  where the glottis is the opening to the vocal folds.




This image shows the oral cavity of the human and the location of the epiglottis.  Note that the esophagus and the trachea share a single opening at the back of the throat (pharynx).  The epiglottis is important for preventing the aspiration of food particles during eating.

oral cavity