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Water content of the blood LOW

Water content of the blood HIGH

Too much water drunk Too much salt or sweating

Brain produces More ADH

Water content of the blood normal

Brain produces Less ADH

Low volume of water reabsorbed by kidney

High volume of water reabsorbed by kidney

Urine output LOW

(small volume of Concentrated urine)

Urine output HIGH

(large volume of dilute urine)

Click on the screen icon below to run the tutorial

(then click the mouse button to make it play through)

All land animals need to conserve water. This is because the external environment is usually drier than the internal environment of the animals body. Thus, water will tend to diffuse away from the body. There is also a need to excrete waste products such as urea, which is dissolved in water. This creates a problem! In mammals, the kidneys are responsible for both excretion of urea and osmoregulation (the control of body fluid concentration).

So, the kidney must balance the need to excrete with the need to conserve water, in other words it must produce a small volume of highly concentrated urine.

The operating unit of the kidney is called the nephron. There are about 1 million nephrons in each of the 2 kidneys. Each nephron comprises 5 segments:

Proximal (first) convoluted tubule

Loop of Henle Distal (second) convoluted tubule Collecting duct

The Loop of Henle allows mammals to produce urine which is more concentrated than body fluids...




The nephrons are packed into the kidney: the glomeruli and convoluted tubules in the cortex, the loops and collecting ducts extending into the medulla. All the collecting ducts eventually join up to form the ureter, emptying urine into the bladder and away!

Water leaves - ion concentration in filtrate increases Chloride ions out (sodium follows) ion concentration in filtrate decreases


Filtrate reaches maximum concentration


Collecting duct

Several nephrons empty into one collecting duct. The collecting duct passes through the progressively more concentrated medulla, losing water by osmosis. This water is reabsorbed by the capillaries. This water is conserved, and a highly concentrated urine is produced.


To ureter

Water reabsorbed into vasa recta, urine becomes more concentrated

Now test yourself

(if the test doesnt appear straight away, click on Reload)

Be warned - this test requires you to understand everything that goes on in the nephron Not for the faint-hearted!

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