Structure of the brain and eye heater tissue in marlins, sailfish, and spearfishes

J Morphol. 1986 Nov;190(2):169-89. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1051900203.


Marlins, sailfish, and spearfishes have a heat-producing tissue beneath the brain and adjacent to the eyes. This tissue warms the brain and eyes while the rest of the body remains at water temperature. The heater tissue is derived from the superior rectus eye muscle. Only a portion of this eye muscle contains normal skeletal muscle tissue; the rest consists of the modified muscle tissue that is associated with heat production. The heat-producing portion is supplied with blood through a countercurrent heat exchanger that originates from the carotid artery. The vascular rate prevents the heat being produced by the tissue from being dissipated at the gill. An unusual circulatory supply to the eyes and brain is associated with the presence of the heater tissue in these fishes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Eye / anatomy & histology*
  • Eye / ultrastructure
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Species Specificity