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Medicine LibreTexts

12.08: Water Balance In Fish And Marine Animals

  • Page ID
    2789
  • [ "article:topic", "Osmosis", "Hypotonic", "Hypertonic", "Isotonic", "authorname:lawsonr", "license:ccbysa" ]

    Fresh Water Fish

    Although the skin of fish is more or less waterproof, the gills are very porous. The body fluids of fish that live in fresh water have a higher concentration of dissolved substances than the water in which they swim. In other words the body fluids of fresh water fish are hypertonic to the water (see chapter 3). Water therefore flows into the body by osmosis. To stop the body fluids being constantly diluted fresh water fish produce large quantities of dilute urine.

    Marine Fish

    Marine fish like the sharks and dogfish have body fluids that have the same concentration of dissolved substances as the water (isotonic) have little problem with water balance. However, marine bony fish like red cod, snapper and sole, have body fluids with a lower concentration of dissolved substances than seawater (they are hypotonic to seawater). This means that water tends to flow out of their bodies by osmosis. To make up this fluid loss they drink seawater and get rid of the excess salt by excreting it from the gills.

    Marine Birds

    Marine birds that eat marine fish take in large quantities of salt and some only have access to seawater for drinking. Bird’s kidneys are unable to produce very concentrated urine, so they have developed a salt gland. This excretes a concentrated salt solution into the nose to get rid of the excess salt.

    Contributors

    • Ruth Lawson (Otago Polytechnic; Dunedin, New Zealand)