Mangrove killifish are small fish—only about an inch or two long—that live in temporary pools in the coastal mangrove forests of Central and South America and Florida. During dry seasons when their pools disappear, the fish hole up in leaf litter or hollow logs.
As long as they stay moist, they can survive for extended periods out of water by breathing air through their skin. But oxygen isn't the only thing a fish out of water needs to worry about, according to Professor Patricia Wright, a biologist from the University of Guelph, Ontario, who has studied these fish for years.
"All cells in the body need the right combination of ions and water for an animal to stay alive," Wright explains. "Normally, the gills are responsible for these processes in fish. We knew that in mangrove killifish the gills are likely useless on land, so how these fish maintain ion balance out of water was a mystery."
Wright's latest research, published in the November/December 2010 issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, shows that the skin of the mangrove killifish picks up the slack for the gills.
Through a series of laboratory experiments, Wright and her team found special cells called ionocytes clustered on the skin of the fish. Ionocytes, normally found on the gills of other fish, are the cells responsible for maintaining the right balance of water and salt in a fish's cells.
"We found the mangrove killifish have roughly as many ionocytes on their skin as on their gills," Wright said. Other fish species have skin ionocytes in larval stages of development, but usually these cells disappear in the skin as the fish develops.
To show that these skin ionocytes were doing the job, the researchers took some mangrove killifish out of water for a period of 9 days. During that time, the fish were left on a surface moist with water containing a radioactive isotope. The researchers found that the isotope eventually turned up in the fish's body.
"It's very clear they're exchanging ions through the skin," Wright said.
The skin of the mangrove killifish is also equipped to help the fish deal with varying salinity, the research found. When out-of-water fish were placed on a surface moist with salt water, the skin ionocytes got bigger, indicating that they're working overtime to keep the right salt balance. When those fish were placed back in water, the skin ionocytes returned to normal size.
It's adaptations like this, Wright says, that make this fish special—even among amphibious fish. Lungfish, for example, need to alter their physiological state to live out of water. But with its special skin, mangrove killifish can maintain all of their normal physiological processes at nearly the same level as being in water—and they can do it for over 60 days.
"They really are very interesting little animals," Wright said.
Danielle M. LeBlanc, Chris M. Wood, Douglas S. Fudge, and Patricia A. Wright, "A Fish Out of Water: Gill and Skin Remodeling Promotes Osmo- and Ionoregulation in the Mangrove Killifish Kryptolebias marmoratus." Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 83:6. An abstract is available here: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/656307.
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology has presented current research in environmental, adaptational, and comparative physiology and biochemistry since 1928. The journal publishes the results of original investigations in animal physiology and biochemistry at all levels of organization, from the molecular to the organismic, focusing on adaptations to the environment. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology is coedited by Drs. Kathleen M. Gilmour and Patricia M. Schulte.
Kevin Stacey | EurekAlert!
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences