The duct system of the avian salt gland as a transporting epithelium: structure and morphometry in the duck Anas platyrhynchos Academic Article uri icon


  • The duct system of the nasal salt gland of the duck comprises central central canals, secondary ducts and main ducts. The secondary and main ducts consist of a layer of columnar cells overlying a layer of small cuboidal cells. The columnar cells have complex intercellular spaces showing evidence of Na+K+-ATPase at the apical regions. Approximately 70% of surface area of the duct system is external to the gland. During adaptation to salt water the duct system increases in size as does the gland. Although the components of the gland of adapted ducks, including the duct system within the gland, increase in size compared with normal ducks, the percentage volume densities of the components remain similar in both categories of ducks, i.e. the duct system increases in size in proportion to the glandular tissue. The volume of the duct system external to the gland is six to seven times larger than the volume within the gland. Thus, if ductal modification of secreted fluid occurs, it will be most likely to take place in the ducts external to the gland. Total surface areas of the duct system were measured from serial sections of glands and ducts from one normal and one adapted duck. These were used to calculate possible flux rates of water and sodium across the duct epithelium, assuming the occurrence of either water reabsorption of sodium secretion. Although these flux rates are high it is shown that they are similar to calculated flux rates across the luminal surface of the secretory tubules.

publication date

  • July 1987