Effects of Restricted Water-Intake on Digestion, Urea Recycling and Renal-Function in Wombats (Marsupialia, Vombatidae) From Contrasting Habitats Academic Article uri icon


  • Responses to limited water availability were studied in two species of wombats from mesic (Vombatus ursinus) or xeric (Lasiorhinus latifrons) habitats. Four Vombatus and three Lasiorhinus were fed a low-quality straw-based diet containing 0.6% nitrogen and 68% neutral detergent fibre (dry-matter basis). Restriction to 50% of ad libitum intakes of drinking water reduced dry-matter intakes by 30% but did not alter digestibilities of fibre or nitrogen. Nitrogen balances were negative and similar between species and water intakes. Urea pool size (C-14 urea) increased during water restriction but urea-entry rates and the proportion of urea recycled to the gut were similar between water intakes (78-89%). Tritiated water was given to wombats in single intramuscular or intraperitoneal doses. Times to equilibration of tritium in urinary water were large and variable (45 +/- 36 h). Urinary tritium concentrations often declined erratically after equilibration, and were 14 +/- 14% lower than the tritium concentration in the blood. These irregular kinetics for tritiated water suggest that the water-dilution method requires validation for the wombats. Urinary and faecal water losses were reduced by 60% during water restriction. Water was mainly lost in the faeces, which were drier in Lasiorhinus (41 % dry matter) than in Vombatus (31 %). As blood haematocrit and plasma osmolality were similar between water intakes, extracellular spaces were apparently maintained during water restriction. Glomerular filtration rates (creatinine clearance) were low (12 mL min-1) and similar between water intakes. Therefore, a more concentrated urine was produced by tubular resorption in water-restricted wombats. Lasiorhinus had greater urinary osmolalities and urine: plasma ratios of creatinine, which reflected a greater urine-concentrating ability than Vombatus. Apparent water intakes and the ability to reduce urinary and faecal water losses in the wombats are similar to those of kangaroos. The contrasting abilities of Vombatus and Lasiorhinus to minimise both these water losses are directly related to their separate distributions.

author list (cited authors)

  • Barboza, P. S.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Barboza, PS

publication date

  • January 1993