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> Is there any reason to assume that these animals could not breathe
> >via the mouth if they had to?
> Right. Of course they could! 

Well, a number of animals don't seem to 'know' that they can breath
through their mouths. Some creatures with very specialized narial tubes,
like cetaceans, can't, and thus suffocate with blocked nares. Elephants
(admittedly, with very specialized narial bits too) will suffocate if
their trunk is blocked, even though, in theory, they can breath through their
mouths. But the clincher is that cats, and probably a great many other
creatures too, will suffocate when their nostrils are blocked. It
doesn't seem to occur to them to open their mouths, but then... we, not
they, are the thinking creatures.

"It - it can talk!" "Yeah! With an accent!"