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Published in: Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, Vol. 79, No 6, 2006.


The renin‐angiotensin‐aldosterone system (RAAS) appears to contribute significantly to osmoregulation of fasting northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) pups; however, RAAS has not been characterized in fasting adult seals. Therefore, this study examined the contribution of RAAS to water turnover rates in fasting adult male northern elephant seals. Blood samples were obtained twice during their breeding fast at an interval of 6.5 wk, and water efflux rate was estimated by isotopic dilution during the same period. Serum electrolytes (Na+, K+, Cl) and osmolality were unaltered between the two sampling periods, indicating ionic and osmotic homeostasis during the fast. Despite the lack of an increase in vasopressin, serum angiotensin II and aldosterone were increased and were significantly and positively correlated. Changes in aldosterone concentration and water efflux rate were significantly and negatively correlated, suggesting that the greater the increase in aldosterone, the smaller the loss of water. Adult male seals maintain ionic and osmotic homeostasis similar to that of fasting weaned pups, and this homeostasis appears to be mediated, at least in part, by RAAS, which probably contributes to increased water retention as well. The hormonal mechanisms by which northern elephant seals maintain water and electrolyte balance during fasting conditions appear to be similar regardless of age.

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