Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Physiological Desalination

Image by Hans-Petter Fjeld, via Wikimedia Commons

Ellie Runiewicz, an undergraduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Jason Breves at Skidmore College presented research on osmoregulation in teleost fish at the American Physiology Summit last month.

Ellie’s research examined how Atlantic salmon are able to remove salts from the water they drink. When these fish live in marine environments, they are constantly drinking saltwater. Processing the water to remove the salts is therefore really important to their survival. After ingestion, the salts are first processed in the esophagus and the gastrointestinal tract. The job of the esophagus is to remove enough saline so that the ingested water is similar to the blood of the fish. The gastrointestinal tract is then able to take up fluids by moving solutes – because water follows the movement of salts. The gills clear much of the salts from the body, whereas some is excreted in what little urine these fish produce while in saltwater and some passes through the gut. In this way, they are able to desalinate the water they drink.

Other studies have shown that both growth hormone and the stress hormone cortisol help fish adapt to saltwater. But it was not yet clear how these hormones regulated what was happening in the gut of these fish. The findings from this study were able to show that these hormones regulate the movement of salt in the gastrointestinal system.


E Runiewicz, S Richardson, S Bradley, D Hall, S McCormick, J Breves. Transcriptional regulation of gastrointestinal solute transporters by growth hormone and cortisol in Atlantic salmon. 2023 American Physiology Summit, Long Beach, CA.

Categories: Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Livestock, Environment, Extreme Animals, Nature's Solutions, Ocean Life, Physiology on the Road

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