Effects of fresh and seawater ingestion on osmoregulation in Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

Abstract

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are marine mammals with body water needs challenged by little access to fresh water and constant exposure to salt water. Osmoregulation has been studied in marine mammals for a century. Research assessing the effects of ingested fresh water or seawater in dolphins, however, has been limited to few animals and sampling times. Nine 16- to 25-h studies were conducted on eight adult dolphins to assess the hourly impact of fresh water, seawater, and seawater with protein ingestion on plasma and urine osmolality, urine flow rate (ufr), urinary and plasma solute concentrations, and solute clearance rates. Fresh water ingestion increased ufr. Fresh water ingestion also decreased plasma and urine osmolality, sodium and chloride urine concentrations, and solute excretion rates. Seawater ingestion resulted in increased ufr, sodium, chloride, and potassium urine concentrations, sodium excretion rates, and urine osmolality. Seawater with protein ingestion was associated with increased ufr, plasma osmolality, sodium excretion, and sodium, chloride, potassium, and urea urine concentrations. In conclusion, bottlenose dolphins appear to maintain water and plasma solute balance after ingesting fresh water or seawater by altering urine osmolality and solute clearance. Ingestion of protein with seawater appears to further push osmoregulation limits and urine solute concentrations in dolphins.

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Abbreviations

HPTR:

High protein test ration

MMP:

Navy Marine Mammal Program

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Mr. Christopher Hammell for his assistance with data entry and the reviewers of this manuscript, including Dr. Rudy Ortiz, for their valuable contributions and discussion topics. SHR conceived the study hypotheses and implemented experimental design. SVW analyzed the data. Both authors wrote and edited the manuscript. The experiments in this study complied with the current laws of the country in which the experiments were performed.

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Correspondence to Sam Ridgway.

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Communicated by I. D. Hume.

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Ridgway, S., Venn-Watson, S. Effects of fresh and seawater ingestion on osmoregulation in Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). J Comp Physiol B 180, 563–576 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00360-009-0439-0

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Keywords

  • Dolphin
  • Marine mammal
  • Osmoregulation
  • Fresh water
  • Seawater