All eleven cricetid species, examined in this investigation, produced an off-white crystal-line precipitate in their urine when deprived of water, whereas not one murid examined did so. This crystalline compound was identified as allantoin, a common end product of purine catabolism. The quantity found in the solid precipitate alone accounted for 47% of the total nitrogen excreted and was approximately 14 times greater than the predicted quantity of allantoin from purine degradation. It appears that there is a shift in nitrogen excretion from urea to allantoin in the Cricetidae. Water-deprived cricetids had higher urine osmolalities, urea concentrations and lower daily percentage body water turnovers than the murids. This can be explained by the substantial water savings associated with excreting solid allantoin. The discrepancy in the mode of nitrogen excretion between the two families inhabiting the Namib Desert can be attributed to their different evolutionary histories, the Cricetidae being pre-adapted for survival in deserts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology