Osmoregulation of the Australian freshwater crocodile, Crocodylus johnstoni, in fresh and saline waters

Abstract

An unusual saltwater population of the “freshwater” crocodilian, Crocodylus johnstoni, was studied in the estuary of the Limmen Bight River in Australia's Northern Territory and compared with populations in permanently freshwater habitats. Crocodiles in the river were found across a large salinity gradient, from fresh water to a salinity of 24 mg · ml-1, more than twice the body fluid concentration. Plasma osmolarity, concentrations of plasma Na+, Cl-, and K+, and exchangeable Na+ pools were all remarkably constant across the salinity spectrum and were not substantially higher or more variable than those in crocodiles from permanently freshwater habitats. Body fluid volume did not vary; condition factor and hydration status of crocodiles were not correlated with salinity and were not different from those of crocodiles from permanently fresh water. C. johnstoni clearly has considerable powers of osmoregulation in waters of low to medium salinity. Whether this osmoregulatory competence extends to continuously hyperosmotic environments is not known, but distributional data suggest that C. johnstoni in hyperosmotic conditions may require periodic access to hypoosmotic water. The study demonstrates a physiological capacity for colonisation of at least some estuarine waters by this normally stenohaline freshwater crocodilian.

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Abbreviations

ANOCOVA:

analysis of covariance

BW:

body weight

CF:

condition factor

ExNa:

exchangeable sodium

HF:

hydration factor

SVL:

snout-vent length

TBW:

total body water

THO:

tritiated water

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Correspondence to G. C. Grigg.

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Taplin, L.E., Grigg, G.C. & Beard, L. Osmoregulation of the Australian freshwater crocodile, Crocodylus johnstoni, in fresh and saline waters. J Comp Physiol B 163, 70–77 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00309668

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Key words

  • Osmoregulation
  • Salt glands
  • Salinity
  • Homeostasis
  • Crocodile, Crocodylus johnstoni