The water absorption response: A behavioral assay for physiological processes in terrestrial amphibians

Stanley D. Hillyard, Karin Von Seckendorff Hoff, Catherine Propper

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Terrestrial amphibians take up water by abducting the hind limbs and pressing a specialized portion of the ventral skin to a moist surface, using a characteristic behavior called the water absorption response. An assay of the water absorption response was used to quantify physiological factors associated with thirst and water uptake. Dramatic changes in the water absorption response resulted from subtle changes in hydration state and from altering the reserve water supply in the urinary bladder. The water absorption response could be induced by intraperitoneal and intracerebroventricular injection of angiotensin II, demonstrating that components of the renin-angiotensin system on both sides of the blood-brain barrier have a dipsogenic function in amphibians. These experiments also demonstrated that the water absorption response could be influenced by changes in barometric pressure. Toads avoided the water absorption response on hyperosmotic substrates, and behavioral experiments showed that the amphibian skin served a sensory function similar to that of the lingual epithelium of mammals. The water absorption response assay has enormous potential as a tool for the investigation of physiological processes and sensory capabilities of amphibians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-138
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiological Zoology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology (medical)


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