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Does the ostrich (Struthio camelus) coprodeum have the electrophysiological properties and microstructure of other birds?

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, DK-1870 Copenhagen, Denmark.


The ostrich is unique among birds in having complete separation of urine and faeces. The coprodeal epithelium is thus during dehydration exposed to a fluid 500 mOsm hyperosmotic to plasma. We have investigated whether the coprodeum is adapted like a mammalian bladder. The coprodeal epithelium was studied by electrophysiology in the Ussing chamber, and the anatomy by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.


The short-circuit current (SCC) and open circuit electrical potential difference were recorded. The change induced by 0.1 mmol mucosal amiloride was recorded. An average basal SCC of 162+/-29 microA/cm(2) was observed, and a resistance of 297+/-34 Omega cm(2) calculated. These values are as observed in other avian coprodea. The resistance is much lower than in mammalian bladders (10000 Omega cm(2)). The amiloride-sensitive SCC, equal to net sodium absorption, was approximately 5 micromol/cm(2)h as observed in other avian species.


The mucosal membrane is composed of broad irregular folds with very short intestinal glands containing an unusually high proportion of goblet cells.


The ostrich coprodeum is not adapted like a mammalian bladder. The abundance of goblet cells results in a copious secretion of mucus that establishes a thick unstirred layer giving effective osmotic protection.

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