The normal epiglottis has a firm but movable shape based upon the presence of elastic cartilage below the submucosa. Elastic cartilage (also found in the nose and the external ear) has prominent pink-staining elastic fibers between the cartilagenous nuclei. On one side is respiratory epithelium. When swallowing, the epiglottis closes over the respiratory tract above the larynx, and the swallowed food or fluid passes over the squamous epithelial-lined side of the epiglottis into the esophagus.