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J Comp Physiol B. 2007 Nov;177(8):917-26. Epub 2007 Jul 27.

Osmotic and metabolic responses to dehydration and urea-loading in a dormant, terrestrially hibernating frog.

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Department of Zoology, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA.


Physiological responses to dehydration in amphibians are reasonably well documented, although little work has addressed this problem in hibernating animals. We investigated osmotic and metabolic responses to experimental manipulation of hydration state in the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), a terrestrial hibernator that encounters low environmental water potential during autumn and winter. In winter-conditioned frogs, plasma osmolality varied inversely with body water content (range 69-79%, fresh mass) primarily due to increases in sodium and chloride concentrations, as well as accumulation of glucose and urea. Decreased hydration was accompanied by a marked reduction in the resting rate of oxygen consumption, which was inversely correlated with plasma osmolality and urea concentration. In a separate experiment, resting rates of oxygen consumption in fully hydrated frogs receiving injections of saline or saline containing urea did not differ initially; however, upon dehydration, metabolic rates decreased sooner in the urea-loaded frogs than in control frogs. Our findings suggest an important role for urea, acting in concert with dehydration, in the metabolic regulation and energy conservation of hibernating R. sylvatica.

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