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Here, we describe a laboratory experiment as part of an upper-level vertebrate physiology course for biology majors to investigate the physiological response of vertebrates to osmoregulatory challenges. The experiment involves measuring plasma osmolality and Na+-K+-ATPase activity in gill tissue of teleost fish acclimated to water of differing salinity. We describe results obtained using the widely available goldfish (Carassius auratus) and a common baitfish, the Gulf killifish (Fundulus grandis). The procedures described are generally applicable to other fish species, and they provide an alternative to the experimental use of humans or other mammalian species to investigate osmoregulation mechanisms. In addition to reenforcing the conceptual material covered in lecture, this laboratory exercise trains students in a wide range of laboratory and analytical skills, such as calculating and performing dilutions, pipetting, tissue sampling and homogenizing, preparing standard curves, conducting enzymatic assays, and analyzing and interpreting results. Typical student results are presented and discussed, as are common experimental and conceptual mistakes made by students.
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