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!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences