Letter | Published:

The Salt Gland in a Sea Snake (Laticauda)

Abstract

ONE marine lizard and several marine turtles possess salt glands capable of secreting highly concentrated solutions of sodium chloride1. The salt gland appears to be of adaptive advantage to reptiles exposed to electrolyte loads, because the kidney is unable to excrete urine hyperosmotic to the blood. A sea snake (Laticauda semifasciata) follows the general pattern of ionic regulation found in marine turtles and a marine lizard2. The work reported here was designed to identify the salt glands of Laticauda semifasciata and compare it with the homologous gland of another sea snake, Pelamis platurus. Laticauda excretes a relatively dilute urine (7–148 mmolar sodium) from the kidney and a concentrated sodium chloride solution (380–625 mmolar) orally2. The rate of excretion of extrarenal sodium chloride increases to as much as 72 μmoles/ 100 g/h after injection of a sodium chloride or sucrose load2. This response must be due to a salt gland. In all lizards the salt gland is the nasal gland; secretions pass from the nasal passage out through the external nares1,3,4. In turtles, salt gland secretion elaborated by the Harderian gland is discharged under the eyelid1. Crocodiles may have a similar route of extrarenal electrolyte excretion2.

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