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All vertebrates have kidneys. Like the human kidney, they are made up of many nephrons.
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the human kidney works.
However, there are differences in the structure and functioning of various vertebrate kidneys that adapt them to the environment in which the animals live.
All animals that live in fresh water must cope with a continual inflow of water from their hypotonic environment. In order to maintain homeostasis of its extracellular fluid (ECF), the freshwater fish must excrete this excess water.Contraction of its heart (powered by ATP) provides the pressure to force the water, small molecules, and ions into the glomerulus as nephric filtrate. The essential ingredients are then reclaimed by the tubules, returning to the blood in the capillaries surrounding the tubules. The blood in these capillaries comes from
The frog adjusts to the varying water content of its surroundings by adjusting the rate of filtration at the glomerulus. When blood flow through the glomerulus is restricted, a renal portal system is present to carry away materials reabsorbed through the tubules.
The frog is also able to use its urinary bladder to aid water conservation.
Many reptiles live in dry environments (e.g., rattlesnakes in the desert). Among the many adaptations to such environments is their ability to convert waste nitrogen compounds into uric acid.
Uric acid is quite insoluble and so can be excreted using only a small amount of water. Thus we find that reptile glomeruli are quite small and, in fact, some reptiles have no glomeruli at all.
Those with glomeruli filter just enough fluid to wash the uric acid, which is secreted by the tubules, into the cloaca. Most of this moisture is reabsorbed in the cloaca. Emptying the cloaca deposits feces (brown) and uric acid (a white paste).
(The cloaca is a chamber through which the feces and the gametes, as well as urine, pass on the way to the outside. The name comes from the Latin word for sewer.)These water conservation mechanisms can allow the reptile to forgo drinking water. The water content of its food plus the water produced by cellular respiration is usually sufficient.
Bird kidneys function like those of reptiles (from which they are descended). Uric acid is also their chief nitrogenous waste.
Most birds have a limited intake of fresh water. However, they need filter only enough to wash a slurry of uric acid into the cloaca where enough additional water is reclaimed to convert the uric acid into a semisolid paste. (It is the whitish material that pigeons leave on statues.)
All mammals share our use of urea as their chief nitrogenous waste.
Urea requires much more water to be excreted than does uric acid. Mammals produce large amounts of nephric filtrate but are able to reabsorb most of this in the tubules. But even so, humans lose several hundred ml each day in flushing urea out of the body.
Some mammals have more efficient kidneys than ours. The kangaroo rat of the desert can produce a urine 17 times more concentrated that its blood. (The best we can do is 3-4 times as concentrated.) The efficiency of the kangaroo rat kidney enables it to survive without drinking water — simply depending on the water content of its food and that produced by cellular respiration.
We like to think of ourselves as highly advanced. Why don't we have kidneys as efficient as those of the reptiles and birds? It is the luck of our inheritance. The line of vertebrate evolution that produced the mammals split off before the evolution of the diapsids whose ability to convert nitrogenous wastes into uric acid was passed on to all their descendants, including the lizards, snakes, and birds.
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The two major groups of marine fishes have solved this dilemma differently.
Living in constant danger of dehydration by the hypertonic sea, there is no reason to pump out large amounts of nephric filtrate at the glomerulus. The less water placed in the tubules, the less that has to be reabsorbed. So it is not surprising that many bony fishes have small glomeruli and some have no glomeruli at all (see figure).
With a reduction in the filtration-reabsorption mechanism, the marine bony fishes rely more on tubular secretion for eliminating excess or waste solutes. Tubular secretion requires a good blood supply to the tubules. Lacking efficient glomeruli, the renal portal system must carry most of the burden.