Hormones and endocrine glands of fishes. Studies of fish endocrinology reveal major physiologic and evolutionary problems

Science. 1967 Oct 27;158(3800):455-62. doi: 10.1126/science.158.3800.455.


The structures discussed above illustrate some of the evolutionary knowledge to be obtained from studies of the comparative biology of the endocrine system among the fishes (see also 17, 78). The interrenal (adrenocortical) gland is an example of an endocrine structure which shows great morphologic variation in the vertebrate series, and among the fishes themselves. The structural variability implies little selective value for any particular pattern, and, in fact, biochemically the interrenal tissue would seem to be involved in much the same kind of steroidogenesis in the vertebrates generally. However, the hormone aldosterone may be a tetrapod novelty. The caudal neurosecretory system is a good example of a ubiquitous endocrine apparatus, among at least teleostean and elasmo-branch fishes, for which a function has yet to be elucidated and which continues to challenge the comparative physiologist. This system, along with the Stannius corpuscles, is lacking in the tetrapods. The existence of these structures makes it clear that the endocrine biology of fishes cannot be tacitly summarized as being essentially similar to that of the tetrapods, only less well developed. The prolactin situation illustrates the existence of a gland-the pituitary-present among fishes as among tetrapods, which secretes a product only partly related to the tetrapod hormone and having a very different functional significance. In this case it is clear that "the hormone and the uses to which it is put" have undergone evolutionary change during vertebrate phylogeny.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / physiology
  • Aldosterone / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cauda Equina
  • Endocrine Glands / physiology*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Glucocorticoids / physiology
  • Neurosecretion
  • Physiology, Comparative
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology
  • Prolactin / physiology
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Aldosterone
  • Prolactin