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Published in: Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A, Vol.129, Issues 2-3, 2001


Elephant seals fast for prolonged periods without access to water. This is made possible, in part, by reductions in urine production. However, the mechanisms involved in reducing urine production are not understood. In this study, glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was measured in five northern elephant seal pups (Mirounga angustirostris) via the inulin clearance technique. Measurements were made during day 9 and day 18–22 of nursing and the second and eighth week of the postweaning fast. Plasma aldosterone and cortisol concentrations, quantified by radioimmunoassay, were measured in eight other weanlings during the second and eighth week of the fast. Mean GFR was 79.3±29.3 ml/min during the early suckling period and 78.2±17.1, 89.8±52.7, and 80.4±12.2 ml/min during the late suckling, early fasting and late fasting periods, respectively. Differences between nursing and fasting were insignificant, possibly because reduced protein oxidation during suckling and rapid recruitment of protein for tissue synthesis obviated the need for postprandial hyperfiltration. Alternatively, maintenance of GFR during fasting may facilitate urea concentration by compensating for reductions in the fractional excretion of urea. It is further hypothesized that aldosterone is primarily responsible for mediating renal water reabsorption in this system.

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