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Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 Jun;147(2):556-61. Epub 2007 Feb 14.

Osmoregulatory role of the brood pouch in the euryhaline Gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli.

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University of South Alabama, Department of Biological Sciences, LSCB 124, Mobile, AL 36688, USA.


Many species of pipefish exhibit a reversal of parental roles, in which females insert eggs into the brood pouch of the male where they are incubated until the end of embryonic development. While the significance of the male brood pouch has been examined for over a century, the role of the pouch is still unclear. One possible function is to aid in osmoregulation by buffering embryos from the external environment. To investigate this role, the euryhaline Gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli, was collected and maintained in either a low salinity or a saltwater environment. Changes in plasma and pouch fluid osmolality and morphological changes of the pouch were examined. Brood pouch fluid was similar to male plasma during the early and late stages of the brooding period for low salinity males, but was significantly hyperosmotic during the middle of the brooding period. In saltwater males, brood pouch fluid was similar to plasma during early brooding, but became hyperosmotic as brood time progressed. The brood pouch epithelium of both low salinity and saltwater males contained mitochondria-rich cells. In early brooding saltwater males these cells contained an apical opening into the pouch lumen. Osmotic and morphological differences observed suggest that the brood pouch plays an active role in regulating osmotic concentration of the pouch fluid. Additionally, pouch fluid concentration may be regulated more during early stages of embryonic development.

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