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Rectal gland morphology of freshwater and seawater acclimated bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas

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To compare rectal gland morphology of bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas, animals captured in the freshwater reaches of the Brisbane River, Australia, were acclimated to sea water over 17 days with 1 week in the final salinity. A control group was left in fresh water for 17 days. Animals in fresh water and sea water were strongly hyper- and hypo-ionic with respect to plasma Na+ and Cl, respectively. This difference necessitates NaCl secretion by the rectal gland in sea water and conservation of NaCl in fresh water. Structural differences in the rectal gland of freshwater and seawater acclimated bull sharks were limited. There was no difference in rectal gland cross-sectional area, lumen area, rectal gland vein area, number of secretory tubules or secretory cells per secretory tubule in freshwater and seawater acclimated animals. At a cellular level, there was no difference between the degree of basolateral and lateral folding, number of mitochondria or number of desmosomes per tight junction. Tight junction width was significantly greater in seawater acclimated animals. The number of red blood cells in the interstitial tissue was also significantly higher in seawater acclimated animals, possibly as a result of increased blood perfusion of the secretory epithelia. The lack of major structural changes in the rectal glands of bull sharks acclimated to fresh water and sea water most likely represents the salinity gradient in the Brisbane River where animals are found throughout the river and can experience large fluctuations in salinity over short distances. Differences in rectal gland morphology of bull sharks in fresh water and sea water are discussed in terms of their relevance to osmoregulation in elasmobranchs.
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Keywords: elasmobranchs; euryhaline; morphology; osmoregulation; rectal gland

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, U.K. 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada 3: School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia

Publication date: 01 May 2008

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