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Zoolog Sci. 2015 Jan;32(1):1-7. doi: 10.2108/zs140142.

From aquatic to terrestrial life: evolution of the mechanisms for water acquisition.

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  • 1Laboratory of Physiology, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8564, Japan.


It is generally accepted that ancient fishes first experienced freshwater (FW), and then variably by lineage moved onto the land or re-entered the seas during evolution. As both land and sea are desiccating environments, animals must change their strategies for body fluid regulation from protecting against overhydration in FW to coping with dehydration in seawater (SW) or on land. The evolution of the mechanisms for acquisition of water surely must have accompanied these dramatic environmental changes. The major route for water acquisition is by oral drinking in terrestrial tetrapods (represented here by mammals) and in SW fishes (represented by teleosts as they are dehydrated in SW), but the regulation is contrasting between the two groups; mechanisms inducing thirst have developed in mammals, whereas inhibitory mechanisms are dominant in marine teleosts as observed in FW teleosts. Thus, the apparent difference was found not between hydrating and dehydrating habitat, but rather between terrestrial and aquatic habitats. This contrast is also reflected in regulatory hormones; dipsogenic hormones such as angiotensin II play pivotal roles in water homeostasis in mammals, whereas antidipsogenic hormones such as atrial natriuretic peptide are essential in teleosts. Imbibed water becomes body fluid only after absorption by the intestine, and there is a distinct difference in the mechanisms for water absorption between mammals and teleosts. Like regulation of drinking, we found that the inhibitory mechanisms are dominant for intestinal water absorption in teleosts. In the initial part of this short review, interesting differences in the body fluid regulation between mammals and teleosts are introduced, particularly with regard to water acquisition (drinking and intestinal absorption). Then an attempt was made to discuss the evolution of the mechanisms from the two perspectives; transitions from aquatic to terrestrial habitats and from hydrating (FW) to dehydrating (land and SW) habitats.


body fluid regulation; drinking; ecological evolution; intestinal absorption; osmoregulation

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