Water is vital to all animals on the planet, as well as to humans. But as our climate changes to the worst, water availability decreases equally, leaving animals with limited or unreliable supplies of this critical resource.
However, a new study conducted by Arizona State University published in the Royal Society Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences shows for the first time that animals use their own muscles to supply with water, when this is not available from an external source. Researchers from the ASU and the Center d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé of France collaborated on this project with the University of Arizona and the findings were published today on June 27.
George Brusch IV, lead researcher and PhD student at the University of Arizona, said: “Our study shows that during reproduction, muscle metabolism is linked to water needs for embryo development, when fat is 10% and water at 75%, so there are the appropriate conditions for the muscles to release additional water in the body of the animals. ”
Researchers looked at this idea by studying the effects of water deprivation on the reproductive efforts of a middle-sized snake breeding during the dry season in Australia, where natural water sources are extremely limited. They found that muscles play an important role in providing body water when not available from an external source.
“Female pythons can change the way they use internal water resources based on environmental constraints,” said Brusch. “Understanding how animals are confronted with resource constraints will help scientists predict whether animals may be affected by future climate change, where rainfall is expected to fall dramatically in many regions.”
During the study, the researchers combined pregnant pythons with other females of similar breed. Then, over a period of three weeks, from those snakes that were pregnant, only half of the pairs had access to the water. Pregnant females, both in the laboratory and in the wild, do not eat during pregnancy and rely solely on internal reserves such as fat and muscles for their energy needs.
Scientists personally observed the conversion of fat burning by-products such as ketones and uric acid as well as the size of the muscles and the impact they had on the snakes’ eggs. Waterless animals burned more muscle than fat to meet their water needs. In addition, the animals without water gave birth to a smaller number of eggs per person, while their eggs weighed less and the shell was finer.
Brittany Kaminsky, a research student at ASU, highlighted the fact that: Dehydration can play a complex role in reproduction, and has the capacity to affect other body systems. So, on the basis of these data and at a practical level, a disease in animals could be transmitted more easily and somehow we could know more precisely the cause.
Most animals need stable access to water to survive, especially during breeding, and researchers in the present study argue that using muscle as a reservoir of water can be a widespread phenomenon.
Improved knowledge about the relationship between hydration and breeding will also enable scientists to better understand the responses to global water constraints and change the way they approach breeding in the animal kingdom.