Urea production and accumulation in the green toad, Bufo viridis



The toad, Bufo viridis, can live for several months without access to free water, absorbing soil-bound water down a water-potential gradient created, mainly, by accumulating urea in its body fluids. We investigated if the retention of urine was sufficient to account for the rate of accumulation or if an increased rate of urea production was needed in order to do so. The basal rate of urea production in unfed animals in the absence of osmotic stress was estimated by two methods; first, analysis of the bathing medium and, secondly, collection and analysis of urine at two-hourly intervals. This was then repeated with animals fed a weight-maintaining diet. Generally similar results were obtained by either method in both fed and unfed animals, although higher urea production rates were found in the former. Although it had been planned to apply the short interval method to toads with free access to water, the control condition for toads transferred to soil, it proved to be impracticable. Some animals did not bathe for almost a day, during which time minute quantities of urine were obtained. Larger volumes were only produced during or after bathing. Consequently, animals which were partially immersed in water were substituted as controls. Total urea content was determined in these and in toads after a week on soil. The calculated increase was compared to that which could be expected from urine retention. It was found that urea accumulated at more than twice the predicted rate. When rates of accumulation were calculated over longer periods, urine retention alone was sufficient to account for them within three weeks on soil, the usual period required for acclimation. We concluded that B. viridis increased its rate of urea production only for a short period, until a favourable water potential gradient was achieved.