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Convergent evolution of increased urine concentrating ability in desert mammals


One of the most celebrated textbook examples of physiological adaptations to desert environments is the unique ability that desert mammals have to produce hyperosmotic urine. Commonly perceived as an adaptation mainly observed in small rodents, the extent to which urine concentrating ability has independently evolved in distinct lineages, including medium-sized and large desert mammals, has not previously been assessed using modern phylogenetic approaches. Here, we explicitly test the general hypothesis that desert-dwelling mammals have evolved increased ability to concentrate urine compared to non-desert species, controlling for body mass and other covariates. Phylogenetic generalized least-squares models show that the mean aridity index of a species distribution range largely predicts its urine concentrating ability, even when accounting for body mass differences and phylogenetic correlations. In contrast, we find much weaker correlations between mass-adjusted basal metabolic rate and environmental variables.

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