Ionoregulatory physiology of two species of African lungfishes Protopterus dolloi and Protopterus annectens
Basic ionoregulatory physiology was characterized in two species of African lungfish, slender African lungfish Protopterus dolloi and West African lungfish Protopterus annectens, largely under aquatic conditions. There were no substantive differences between the two species. Plasma [Na], [Cl] and [Ca] were only 60–80% of those typical of freshwater teleosts, and plasma Ca activity was particularly low. Unidirectional Na and Cl influx rates from water were also very low, only c. 10% of teleost values, whereas unidirectional Ca influx rates were comparable with teleost rates. Protopterus spp. were fed a 3% ration of bloodworms every 48 h. The bloodworm diet provided similar amounts of Na and Ca as uptake from water, but almost no Cl. Efflux rates of Na and Cl through the urine were greater than via the faeces, whereas the opposite was true for Ca. Net ion flux measurements and ionic balance sheet calculations indicated that (1) both water and dietary uptake routes are important for Na and Ca acquisition; (2) the waterborne route predominates for Cl uptake; (3) unidirectional ion effluxes across the body surface (gills and skin) rather than urine and faeces are the major routes of loss for Na, Cl and Ca. Tissues (muscle, liver, lung, kidney, intestine and heart) and plasma ions were also examined in P. dolloi‘terrestrialized’ in air for up to 5 months, during which plasma ion concentrations (Na, Cl, Ca and Mg) did not change and there were only a few alterations in tissue ions, that is, increased [Na] in intestine, decreased [Cl] in kidney and increased [Ca] in liver and kidney.