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Data from: A re-evaluation of the chemical composition of avian urinary excreta

Cite this dataset

Crouch, Nicholas M. A.; Lynch, Vincent M.; Clarke, Julia A. (2019). Data from: A re-evaluation of the chemical composition of avian urinary excreta [Dataset]. Dryad.


Osmoregulation in birds is complicated, with different organs acting concurrently to regulate this physiological process. Of particular interest is how the urinary excretions of birds can remove excess nitrogen while minimizing the need for dietary water and balancing the physiological demands of oviparity. It has long been concluded from chemical analyses, and more recently from genetic studies, that uric acid is the principal constituent of urine in Aves. However, research has also demonstrated that waste material may be modified in the ceca immediately prior to it being expelled. Here, we quantify the chemical composition of the urine component of excreta of six avian species using X-ray diffraction techniques to test the hypothesis that it is principally composed of uric acid, as commonly reported. None of the analyzed samples were found to contain uric acid. Instead, a variety of compounds including ammonium urate, struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate), and two unknown compounds, were found. Our results show that the uric acid pathway is indeed the system by which nitrogen is removed in these birds, but that additional modification occurs in the urine prior to excretion. These results raise questions for future research on the urinary excretions of birds, including identification of the unknown compounds found in the present study.

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