Osmoregulation by Vertebrates in Terrestrial Environments


A terrestrial environment for vertebrates leads to both a passive water loss to the air and solute gain through food. Consequently, terrestrial environments would tend to increase the osmotic concentration of vertebrates. Natural selection has led to a variety of behavioural, physiological and anatomical adaptations to both minimize water loss and excrete solutes in order to maintain a constant osmotic concentration in terrestrial environments.

Keywords: water turnover; cutaneous resistance; nasal turbinates; kidneys; salt glands; vertebrates

Figure 1.

Factors influencing boundary layer thickness.

Figure 2.

Daily water turnover relative to body mass in representatives of the four terrestrial vertebrate classes.


Further Reading

Dantzler WB (1982) Renal adaptations of desert vertebrates. BioScience 32: 108–113.

Feder ME and Burggren WW (eds) (1992) Environmental Physiology of the Amphibia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hillenius WJ (1992) The evolution of nasal turbinates and mammalian endothermy. Paleobiology 18: 17–29.

McClanahan LL, Ruibal R and Shoemaker VH (1994) Frogs and toads in deserts. Scientific American March: 64–70.

Peaker M and Linzell JL (1975) Salt Glands in Reptiles and Birds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roberts JB and Lillywhite HB (1980) Lipid barrier to water exchange in reptile epidermis. Science 207: 1077–1079.

Shoemaker VH and Nagy KA (1977) Osmoregulation in amphibians and reptiles. Annual Review of Physiology 39: 449–471.

Willmer P, Stone G and Johnston I (2000) Environmental Physiology of Animals. Oxford: Blackwell Science.

Withers PC (1992) Comparative Animal Physiology. Orlando, FL: Saunders College Publishing.

Yokota SD, Benyajati S and Dantzler WH (1985) Comparative aspects of glomerular filtration in vertebrates. Renal Physiology 8: 193–221.

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How to Cite close
Hillman, Stanley S(Apr 2001) Osmoregulation by Vertebrates in Terrestrial Environments. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001843]