Dehydration and drinking behavior of the marine file snake Acrochordus granulatus

Lillywhite, Harvey B., Heatwole, Harold, and Sheehy III, Coleman M. (2014) Dehydration and drinking behavior of the marine file snake Acrochordus granulatus. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 87 (1). pp. 46-55.

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Dehydration and drinking behaviors were investigated in the little file snake (Acrochordus granulatus) collected from marine populations in the Philippines and in Australia. File snakes dehydrate in seawater and do not drink seawater when dehydrated in air and offered seawater to drink. Dehydrated file snakes drink freshwater, and the threshold of dehydration for first drinking response is a deficit of -7.4% ± 2.73% (mean ± SD) of original body mass. The thirst mechanism in this species is more sensitive than that recently studied in sea snakes. The volume of water ingested increases with increasing dehydration. Mean plasma osmolality was 278.89 ± 33.17 mMol/kg, mean hematocrit was 59% ± 5.45%, and both decreased in snakes that drank freshwater following acclimation in seawater. Snakes always drank freshwater at the water’s surface, testing water with tongue flicks between each swallowing of water. Some snakes ingested large volumes of freshwater, approaching 50% of body mass. Visual observations and measurements of osmolality in plasma and stomach fluids suggest that water is taken up from the gut and dilutes body fluids slowly over the course of 48 h or longer. Eighty percent of snakes that were collected during the dry season (following >4 mo of drought) in Australia drank freshwater immediately following their capture, indicating that snakes were dehydrated in their marine environment even when known to have been feeding at the time. Snakes kept in seawater maintained a higher state of body condition when freshwater was periodically available. These results support a growing conclusion that diverse taxa of marine snakes require environmental sources of freshwater to maintain water balance, contrary to earlier belief. Identifying the freshwater requirements of secondarily marine vertebrates is important for better understanding how they maintain water balance in marine habitats, especially with respect to conservation in changing environments.

Item ID: 32946
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1537-5293
Funders: National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF)
Projects and Grants: NIH grant HL33821, NSF grant IOS-0926802
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 09:27
Downloads: Total: 4
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