Adaptive strategies for post-renal handling of urine in birds

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  • Gary Laverty
  • Erik Skadhauge
Birds are a diverse vertebrate class in terms of diet and habitat, but they share several common physiological features, including the use of uric acid as the major nitrogenous waste product and the lack of a urinary bladder. Instead, ureteral urine refluxes from the urodeum into the more proximal coprodeum and portions of the hindgut (colon or rectum and ceca). This presents a potential problem in that hyperosmotic ureteral urine in contact with the permeable epithelia of these tissues would counteract renal osmotic work. This review describes and provides examples of different strategies used by avian species to balance renal and post-renal changes in urien composition. The strategies described include: 1. a "reptilian" mode, with moderate renal concentrating ability, but high rates of post-renal salt and water resorption; 2. the "mammalian" strategy, in which the coprodeum effectively functions like a mammalian urinary bladder, preserving the osmotic concentrating work of the kidney; 3. an interaction strategy, in which post-renal transport processes are hormonally regulated in order to optimize renal function under varying conditions of salt or water stress; 4. the salt gland strategy seen in marine or estuarine birds with functional salt glands, in which post-renal transport mechanisms are used to conserve urinary water andd to recycle excess NaCl to the nasal salt glands. Finally, we also describe some features of an as-yet unstudied group of birds, the birds of prey. At least some species in this group are relatively good renal concentrators, and would be predicted to have post-renal mechanisms to preserve this work. This new synthesis illustrates the marked diversity of adaptive mechanisms used by avian species to maintain osmotic homeostasis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology A
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)246-254
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Research areas

  • Former LIFE faculty - Avian lower intestine, Cloaca, Domestic fowl, Emu (Dromaius novae-hollandiae), Kookaburra (Dacelo gigas), Nasal salt gland, Osmoregulation, Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

ID: 8104651