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Integr Comp Biol. 2012 Aug;52(2):227-34. doi: 10.1093/icb/ics039. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Dehydration and drinking responses in a pelagic sea snake.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA. hblill@ufl.edu

Abstract

Recent investigations of water balance in sea snakes demonstrated that amphibious sea kraits (Laticauda spp.) dehydrate in seawater and require fresh water to restore deficits in body water. Here, we report similar findings for Pelamis platurus, a viviparous, pelagic, entirely marine species of hydrophiine ("true") sea snake. We sampled snakes at Golfo de Papagayo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica and demonstrated they do not drink seawater but fresh water at variable deficits of body water incurred by dehydration. The threshold dehydration at which snakes first drink fresh water is -18.3 ± 1.1 % (mean ± SE) loss of body mass, which is roughly twice the magnitude of mass deficit at which sea kraits drink fresh water. Compared to sea kraits, Pelamis drink relatively larger volumes of water and make up a larger percentage of the dehydration deficit. Some dehydrated Pelamis also were shown to drink brackish water up to 50% seawater, but most drank at lower brackish values and 20% of the snakes tested did not drink at all. Like sea kraits, Pelamis dehydrate when kept in seawater in the laboratory. Moreover, some individuals drank fresh water immediately following capture, providing preliminary evidence that Pelamis dehydrate at sea. Thus, this widely distributed pelagic species remains subject to dehydration in marine environments where it retains a capacity to sense and to drink fresh water. In comparison with sea kraits, however, Pelamis represents a more advanced stage in the evolutionary transition to a fully marine life and appears to be less dependent on fresh water.

PMID:
22510231
DOI:
10.1093/icb/ics039
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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