Where’s the Switch?


Sex change occurs as a usual part of the life cycle for many ray-finned fish, often following specific social cues. It has been shown that environmental factors can interact with, and sometimes override,
genetic factors to control sexual development. More dramatically, in many marine fish, individuals can change sex as an adaptive response to environmental changes even during adulthood. Such sensitivity to environmental stimuli may explain why teleost or bony fishes display such highly diverse sex determination and developmental systems, which make them good models for understanding vertebrate sexual development. The exact mechanism behind the transduction of the environmental signals into the molecular cascade that underlies this singular transformation remains largely unknown. Cortisol is the main glucocorticoid in fish and the hormone most directly associated with stress. However, the exact role of cortisol or stress in transducing the external signals to elicit physiological responses during sexual development and sex change remains a mystery.

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