In past studies, several rodent species of the murid subfamilies Gerbillinae and Cricetomyinae from the Namib Desert, when deprived of water, excreted allantoin precipitate in their urine. Shifting nitrogen excretion from urea to allantoin allows them to save much water. This phenomenon has not been reported in other rodents, and whether it is a trait that is common among desert rodents, but undocumented, or is unique to these Namib Desert species, is not known. We found no allantoin precipitate in the urine of any of five additional species of water-deprived murid rodents of two subfamilies from the Negev Desert. There was no discernible precipitate in the urine of Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi (Gerbillinae), Gerbillus pyramidum (Gerbillinae), or Acomys cahirinus (Murinae). Sodium oxalate was found in both the precipitate and the liquid urine of Psammomys obesus (Gerbillinae), and the as yet unidentified precipitate in the urine of Gerbillus dasyurus (Gerbillinae) was not allantoin. This preliminary study suggests that not all gerbilline rodents have the capacity to switch from urea to allantoin excretion. The Namib Desert gerbilline and cricetomyine rodents may be examples of closely related mammalian taxa that have evolved a new metabolic pathway to produce a nitrogenous product that results in sizable water savings, i.e., by switching from urea to allantoin.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology