, Volume 167, Issue 2, pp 153-158

Differences in renal-cloacal function between Crocodylus porosus and Alligator mississippiensis have implications for crocodilian evolution

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Major electrolytes and nitrogenous excretory products were analysed in the blood plasma, ureteral urine and cloacal urine of juvenile Alligator mississippiensis and Crocodylus porosus in fresh and hypoosmotic salt water (206 mosmol · l−1). Both species coped well with saline water, showing little (Alligator) or no (Crocodylus) change in plasma composition. Comparisons of renal-cloacal function point to major differences in their osmoregulatory physiology. The cloaca of C. porosus is a very active osmoregulatory organ in salt and fresh water, contributing to water conservation and NaCl excretion through the lingual salt glands. In contrast, the cloaca of Alligator has little impact on the composition of excreted urine. It seems likely that A.␣mississippiensis is largely constrained to a renal response to osmotic and ionic stress while C. porosus is able to call on a more complex mix of renal response, post-renal modification of urine in the cloaca, and excretion of excess NaCl through the salt glands. The results support the idea that there are deep-seated differences in the osmoregulatory physiology of alligatorids and crocodylids (Eusuchia), an understanding of which should provide valuable insights into their evolution and zoogeography.

Accepted: 7 September 1996