Diel patterns of nitrogen excretion, plasma constituents, and behavior in the gulf Toadfish (Opsanus beta) in Laboratory versus outdoor mesocosm settings

John F. Barimo, Patrick J. Walsh, M. Danielle McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Nitrogen excretion by the gulf toadfish (Opsanus beta) is of interest because of its high proportion of urea excretion compared with that of other teleosts. To better understand the factors influencing the timing of nitrogen excretion, the ratio of excreted urea : ammonia, and the effector molecules regulating these processes, gulf toadfish were subjected to a series of experiments that moved them progressively from internal laboratory to outdoor mesocosm settings while assessing their behavior, nitrogen excretion patterns, levels of plasma hormones/effectors, and other parameters. In confined flux chambers in both laboratory and outdoor settings, toadfish nitrogen excretion was largely observed as urea pulses, with no apparent diel patterns to the pulses. Unrestrained toadfish in mesocosms exhibited distinctly nocturnal behavior, remaining exclusively in shelters during the day but taking several forays out into the mesocosm at night. In contrast to nitrogen excretion patterns in chambers, urea and ammonia were coexcreted in mesocosms and ratios for urea : ammonia were very close to 1 : 1 for both fed and fasted toadfish. The majority of measured excretion (and corresponding declines in plasma urea levels) occurred during two distinct periods of pulsing during daylight hours (0600-1000 and 1600-1800 hours). The declines in plasma urea associated with excretion were preceded by/coincided coincided with declines in plasma cortisol. No day/night or hourly patterns in plasma serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) were observed, but there was a strong positive correlation among all samples between plasma urea and 5-HT. There was also a negative correlation between plasma cortisol and 5-HT. As expected for a nocturnally active species, plasma melatonin was significantly lower in daylight hours. A variety of enzyme activities (glutamine synthetase, glutaminase) and mRNA levels (glutamine synthetase, urea transporter, and Rhesus proteins) showed no significant variation over a diel cycle. Unlike prior laboratory studies, our results show that gulf toadfish in a natural setting have a distinctly diurnal pattern of nitrogen excretion and that ammonia and urea are coexcreted. The decline in plasma cortisol associated with urea pulses noted in prior laboratory studies was not as evident in the natural setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)958-972
Number of pages15
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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