Regulation of water and sodium balance in the field by Australian honeyeaters (Aves : Meliphagidae)

D.L. Goldstein, Don Bradshaw

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    We evaluated the use of water and sodium by free-living individuals of several species of Australian honeyeaters (Acanthorhynchos superciliosus, Phylidonyris novaeholandiae, Phylidonyris nigra, Manorina flavigula, and Anthochaera carunculata). Water and Na fluxes were highly variable between species, largely reflecting differences in diet. Water fluxes ranged from approximately 300% of total body water per day in 10-g, nectarivorous A. superciliosus to approximately 45% of total body water per day, typical of a desert species, in M. flavigula, a 50-g, insectivorous, aridzone bird. Similarly, Na fluxes ranged from nearly 60% of Na pool per day in A. superciliosus to about 25% per day in M. flavigula. Despite these different fluxes, values of regulated osmoregulatory variables, including plasma osmolality, hematocrit, plasma concentrations of Na+ and K+, and exchangeable Na pool, were relatively invariant both between species and within species at different seasons. In contrast, values of variables reflecting the operation of regulatory systems did differ between species and seasons. Urine concentrations were highest in M. flavigula and, in A. carunculata, varied seasonally (higher in summer than winter). Plasma concentrations of aldosterone were lowest in A. carunculata (5-25 pg/mL), highest in P. novaehollandiae (70-200 pg/mL), and in the latter species were higher in winter than summer. Concentrations of arginine vasotocin ranged from 5 pg/mL in A. carunculata to greater than 30 pg/mL in M. flavigula. Our data demonstrate that within the family Meliphagidae, there exists substantial variation in the fluxes of water and Na and that these relate in part to body size variation but more importantly to diet. The different fluxes between species are reflected in the values of numerous osmoregulatory variables.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)214-225
    JournalPhysiological Zoology
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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