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Keywords:

  • ecophysiology;
  • evolution;
  • kidney;
  • rodents;
  • seasonality;
  • Acomys cahirinus

Abstract

The osmoregulatory function of common spiny mice Acomys cahirinus living on opposite slopes of the lower Nahal Oren (‘Evolution Canyon’) on mount Carmel, Israel, was investigated by increasing the salinity of the water source whilst maintaining a high-protein diet. The southern-facing slope (SFS) of this canyon differs from the northern-facing slope (NFS) as it receives considerably more solar radiation and consequently forms a more xeric, sparsely vegetated habitat. During the summer, mice living on the two opposite slopes significantly differed in their urine osmolality, which also increased significantly as dietary salinity increased. Offspring of wild-captured mice, born in captivity, and examined during the winter, continued to show a difference in osmoregulatory function depending on the slope of origin. However, they differed from wild-captured mice, as they did not respond to the increase in dietary salinity by increasing the concentration of their urine, but rather by increasing the volume of urine produced. This study shows that A. cahirinus occupying different microhabitats may exhibit differences in their ability to concentrate urine and thus in their ability to withstand xeric conditions. We suggest that they may also differ genetically, as offspring from the NFS and SFS retain physiological differences, but further studies will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.