Book - Comparative Embryology of the Vertebrates 4-21

From Embryology
Embryology - 9 Dec 2019    Facebook link Pinterest link Twitter link  Expand to Translate  
Google Translate - select your language from the list shown below (this will open a new external page)

العربية | català | 中文 | 中國傳統的 | français | Deutsche | עִברִית | हिंदी | bahasa Indonesia | italiano | 日本語 | 한국어 | မြန်မာ | Pilipino | Polskie | português | ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਦੇ | Română | русский | Español | Swahili | Svensk | ไทย | Türkçe | اردو | ייִדיש | Tiếng Việt    These external translations are automated and may not be accurate. (More? About Translations)

Nelsen OE. Comparative embryology of the vertebrates (1953) Mcgraw-Hill Book Company, New York.

Historic Disclaimer - information about historic embryology pages 
Mark Hill.jpg
Pages where the terms "Historic Textbook" and "Historic Embryology" appear on this site, and sections within pages where this disclaimer appears, indicate that the content and scientific understanding are specific to the time of publication. This means that while some scientific descriptions are still accurate, the terminology and interpretation of the developmental mechanisms reflect the understanding at the time of original publication and those of the preceding periods, these terms and interpretations may not reflect our current scientific understanding.     (More? Embryology History | Historic Embryology Papers)

Part IV - Histogenesis and Morphogenesis of the Organ Systems

Part IV - Histogenesis and Morphogenesis of the Organ Systems: 12. Structure and Development of the Integumentary System | 13. Structure and Development of the Digestive System | 14. Development of the Respiratory-buoyancy System | 15. The Skeletal System | 16. The Muscular System | 17. The Circulatory System | 18. The Excretory and Reproductive System | 19. The Nervous System | 20. The Development of Coelomic Cavities | 21. The Developing Endocrine Glands and Their Possible Relation to Definitive Body Formation and the Differentiation of Sex

The Developing Endocrine Glands and Tlieir Possible Relation to Definitive Body Formation and the Differentiation of Sex

A. Introduction

The endocrine glands are those glands which produce hormonal secretions. The term hormone is derived from a Greek word meaning to stimulate or to stir up. Selye in 1948 (p. 11) defined hormones as physiologic, organic compounds produced by certain cells for the sole purpose of directing the activities of distant parts of the same organism.

The endocrine organs may be separated into two main groups:

  1. purely endocrine glands, and
  2. mixed endo-exocrine glands.

Purely endocrine glands have as their sole function the production of hormones. Under this heading are included the pituitary (hypophysis), thyroid, parathyroid, pineal, adrenal (suprarenal), and thymus glands.


Mixed endo-exocrine glands are exemplified by the pancreas, liver, duodenum, and reproductive organs. Parts of these organs are purely exocrine, e.g., the pancreas where pancreatic juice is produced by the acinous cells but which elaborates, at the same time, insulin from the islets of Langerhans. The liver elaborates the exocrine secretion, bile, which is discharged through the bile ducts and, concurrently, manufactures the antipernicious-anemia factor which is dispensed into the blood stream directly. The duodenum produces digestive substances and also secretin. Secretin is elaborated by the epithelial lining cells of this area, and it stimulates the pancreas to secrete its pancreatic juice.


Relative to their secretory activities all endocrine glands have this physiomorphological feature in common: They discharge the hormonal or endocrine substance directly into the blood stream without the mediation of a duct system. Endocrine glands, therefore, are distinguished by this process from exocrine glands, which exude the secretory product into a duct system from whence the secretion passes to the site of activity.

B. Morphological Features and Embry ological Origin of the Endocrine Glands

1. Pancreas

The islets of Langerhans are small masses of cells or islands scattered among the acini (alveoli) of the general pancreatic tissue. The pancreatic islets appear to arise as specialized buds from the same entodermal cords which give origin to the alveoli. The islets separate early from the entodermal cords and produce isolated cellular cords. Blood capillaries form a meshwork within these cords of cells (figs. 295G; 365A). Their secretion, insulin, is concerned with sugar metabolism and prevents the malfunction known as diabetes.

Pancreatic islets are found extensively in the vertebrates and generally are associated with the pancreas. In some teleost fishes, the two glands are separated although both are derived from the entoderm. The pancreatic islets are classified as belonging to the solid, non-storage type of endocrine gland.


Fig. 365. The pancreatic islets and pituitary gland. (A) Origin of islet tissue from developing pancreatic ducts and acini. 1 == young bud; 5 = older bud. (Modified from Arey, ’46, Developmental Anatomy, Philadelphia, Saunders.) (B-E) Diagrams of pituitary gland conditions in Petromyzon (B), Rana (C), Reptile (D), and Man(E). (Modified from Neal and Rand, 1939, Chordate Anatomy, Philadelphia, Blakiston.) (F) Origin of Rathke’s pouch material from inner layer of epidermal ectoderm in early tadpole of Rana. (G-I) Developmental stages of hypophysis in human embryo.


2. Pituitary Gland (Hypophysis Cerebri)

Previous to the latter part of the last century, the function of the pituitary gland was presumed to be one of mucous secretion, hence the name pituitary from the Latin, pituita, a nasal secretion. It was so regarded by Vesalius in 1543. The English anatomist, Willis, believed that the pituitaly gland secreted the cerebrospinal fluid.

The pituitary gland (fig. 365E and I) is composed of three main parts as follows:

a. Anterior Lobe

The anterior lobe (pars anterior) is composed of two subdivisions:

( 1 ) a large anterior lobe (pars distalis), and

(2) a smaller glandular mass (pars tuberalis).

b. Posterior Lobe

The posterior lobe (lobus nervosus, pars neuralis) is derived from the distal part of the infundibulum.

c. Pars Intermedia

The pars intermedia or intermediate lobe is associated closely with the posterior lobe but has the same embryonic origin as the pars distalis and pars tuberalis of the anterior lobe.

In Petromyzon fiuviatilis, the hypophysis is a flat, tube-like organ attached to the infundibular evagination of the floor of the diencephalon. The anterior lobe is represented by the hypophyseal duct which ends blindly below the infundibulum. From this duct are proliferated the cells of the intermediate lobe (tig. 365B). The pituitary gland shows great similarity, in all higher vertebrates, being composed of three main parts, viz., pars anterior, pars intermedia, and pars posterior (fig. 365C-E). However, in the chicken, whale, manatee, and armadillo, the intermediate lobe is missing (Selye, ’48).

The pars anterior and the pars intermedia of the pituitary gland develop from Rathke’s pouch as evaginations of the middorsal area of the stomodaeal pocket, although in the frog Rathke’s pouch develops precociously from the so-called neural ectoderm above the stomodaeal invagination (fig. 365F-I). Rathke’s pouch gradually comes into contact with the ventrally directed infundibular evagination from the diencephalon. The distal part of the infundibular evagination forms the pars neuralis, while Rathke’s pouch differentiates into the pars distalis, pars intermedia, and pars tuberalis.

3. Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland (fig. 366B) was described first in 1656 by Thomas Wharton, the English anatomist, who called it the thyroid gland because of its association with the thyroid or shield-shaped cartilage of the larynx.

After about 50 years of work by many observers on the thyroid gland and its activities, the crystalline form of the secretory principle of the thyroid gland was isolated by Kendall in 1919, and he called it thyroxine. This compound contained 65 per cent of iodine by weight and its empirical formula was subsequently determined as C, 5 H„ 04 Nl 4 .

One of the thyroid’s functions is to govern carbohydrate metabolism, and, in general, the gland controls the basal metabolism of the animal together with growth processes. In man and the cat, the thyroid gland is in the form of two lateral lobes, located on the ventro-lateral aspect of the thyroid cartilage of the larynx, the two lobes being joined by an isthmus. In birds, there are two glands, both being located within the thoracic cavity; in fishes, including the Cyclostomes, the thyroid is an unpaired structure and is to be found generally between and near the posterior ends of the lower jaws. The gland, therefore, is a constant feature of all vertebrates.


Fig. 366. Thyroid, parathyroid, and thymus glands in human embryo. (A) The loci of origin of thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, and ultimobranchial bodies. (B) Late Stage (somewhat abnormal) of thyroid, parathyroid, and thymus gland development in human. (C) Early stage of thyroid follicle differentiation. (D) Later stage of thyroid follicle differentiation.

In the embryos of all vertebrates the thyroid gland appears as a pharyngeal derivative. In the human as in fishes and amphibia (Lynn and Wachowski, ’51), it arises as a midventral outpocketing of the anterior pharyngeal floor. In the human embryo, this outpocketing occurs between the first and second branchial pouches at about the end of the fourth week of development (fig. 3 66 A). Its point of origin is observable during later development as a small indentation, the foramen caecum, in the region between the root and body of the tongue (fig. 285). It is a bilobed evagination which soon loses its connection with the pharyngeal floor and migrates caudally to the laryngeal area where it differentiates into a double-Iobed structure, connected by a narrow bridge of thyroid tissue, the isthmus. Occasionally, a persistent thyroglossal duct, connecting the foramen caecum with the thyroid gland, remains (fig. 366B). While the thyroid rudiment migrates posteriad, the post-branchial (ultimobranchial) bodies, which take their origin from the caudal margin of the fourth branchial pouch, become incorporated within the thyroid tissue.


The significance of this incorporation is unknown, and evidence of functional thyroid tissue, being derived from the post-branchial body cells, is lacking.

When the cellular masses of the developing thyroid gland reach the site of the future thyroid gland, the cells multiply and break up into cellular strands, surrounded by mesenchyme and blood vessels (fig. 366C). These strands in turn break up into small, rounded, bud-like masses of epithelial cells, the young thyroid follicles (fig. 366D). During the third month of development in the human, colloidal substance begins to appear within the young thyroid follicles. The colloid increases during the fourth month, and the surrounding cells of the follicle appear as a single layer of low columnar cells. Each thyroid follicle as a whole assumes the typical appearance of a functioning structure. Blood capillaries ramify profusely between the respective follicles.

The colloidal substance within each thyroid follicle presumably represents stored thyroid secretion, and the thyroid gland is regarded, therefore, as a “storage type” of endocrine gland. The theory relative to thyroid gland function is set forth that the follicle cells may secrete directly into the capillaries and, hence, into the blood stream, or the secretion may be stored as colloid within the follicles. Later this reserve secretion in the form of colloid may be resorbed by the cells in times of extreme activity and passed on into the region of the capillaries. In certain instances, e.g., dog and rat, individual thyroid follicles may be lined with stratified squamous epithelium (Selye, ’48, p. 695).

In the larvae of the cyclostome, Petromyzon, the so-called endostyle is lined with rows of mucus-secreting cells, alternating with ciliated cells. This endostylar organ becomes transformed into the thyroid gland upon metamorphosis. A localization of iodine in certain of the endostylar cells in the larva has been demonstrated (Lynn and Wachowski, ’51, p. 146).

4. Parathyroid Glands

The parathyroid glands in man are four, small, rounded bodies, located along the dorsal (posterior) median edges of the two thyroid lobes of the thyroid gland (fig. 366B). Unlike the storage type of endocrine gland, such as the thyroid gland with its follicles, the parathyroids contain no follicles and, therefore, represent the solid type of endocrine gland. Blood capillaries ramify through its substance which is composed of closely packed masses of polyhedral epithelial cells, arranged in small cords or in irregular clumps. Two main cell types are present in mammals, the chief or principal cells with a clear cytoplasm and the oxyphil cells whose granules stain readily with acid stains. The chief cells are common to all vertebrate parathyroids and thus may represent the essential cellular type of the parathyroid gland (Selye, ’48, p. 540).

The removal of the parathyroid glands results in a reduction of the calcium content of the blood, muscular tetany, convulsions, and ultimate death. The parathyroid glands in some way regulate calcium metabolism to keep the calcium content in the blood stream at its proper level.

Parathyroid structures may be present in fish (Selye, ’48), but it is generally believed that true parathyroid tissue is confined to the Tetrapoda. Two parathyroid glands on each side are found in most urodeles and other amphibia, and in reptiles. The birds have relatively large parathyroid glands, attached to the two thyroid glands located in the thoracic cavity. All mammals possess parathyroid glands which, in some instances, are located internally within the thyroid gland as well as externally. Accessory parathyroid glands, apart from the two parathyroids attached to the thyroid gland, are found in rats and mice and, consequently, may not be disturbed if the thyroid gland is removed in these rodents.

The parathyroid glands arise in the human embryo from proliferations of the dorso-lateral walls of the third and fourth branchial pouches (fig. 366A). The parathyroids which arise from the third pair of pouches are known as parathyroids III, while those from the fourth pair of branchial pouches are called parathyroids IV. Parathyroids III arise in close proximity to the thymusgland rudiments (fig. 366A). However, it is to be observed that the thymus rudiments arise from the ventral aspect of the third pair of pouches. The parathyroid-III rudiments move caudally with the thymus gland rudiments and come to lie in relation to the lateral lobes of the thyroid, posterior to parathyroids IV which take their origin in close relation to the post-branchial (ultimobranchial) bodies (fig. 3 66 A and B).

Parathyroids IV appear to be a constant feature of all Tetrapoda. In those species having but two parathyroids, it is probable that their origin is from the fourth branchial pouches.

5. Thymus Gland

The thymus gland or “throat sweetbread” (the pancreas is referred to commonly as the “stomach sweetbread”) lies in the anterior portion of the thoracic cavity and posterior neck region (fig. 366B). In some cases, it may extend well along in the neck region toward the thyroid gland. In the thoracic area, it lies between the two pleural sacs, that is, within the mediastinum, and reaches as far caudally as the heart. Histologically, it is composed of two parts:

( 1 ) a cortex and

(2) a medulla.

The cortex contains masses of thymocytes or lymphocyte-like cells, while the medulla contains thymocytes, reticular cells, and the so-called Hassall’s corpuscles, composed of stratified, squamous, epithelial cells.

In man, the thymus gland arises from the ventral portion of the third branchial pouches during the sixth week. These epithelial derivatives of the third branchial pouch become solid masses of cells which migrate posteriad into the anterior thoracic area.

The thymus gland is found in all vertebrates, but its morphology is most variable. In birds, it is situated in the neck region in the form of isolated, irregular nodules. The bursa of Fabricius, previously mentioned (Chap. 13) as an evagination in the cloacal-proctodaeal region of the chick, is a “thymuslike organ” (Selye, ’48, p. 681 ). Thymus glands in reptiles are located in the neck region, and, in amphibians the two thymus glands lie near the angle of the jaws. In fishes several small, thymus-gland nodules arise from the dorsal portions of the gill pouches and come to lie dorsal to the gill slits in the adult.

The function of the thymus gland is not clear. It appears to have some relationship to sexual maturity. (For thorough discussion, see Selye, ’48, Chap. IX.)


6. Pineal Body

The pineal gland appears to have been first described by Galen, the Greek scientist and physician (130-ca.200 A.D.), who believed it to function in relation to the art of thinking. Descartes (1596-1650) considered it to be the “seat of the soul.”

During development, two fingerlike outgrowths of the thin roof of the diencephalon of the brain occur in many vertebrates, namely, an anterior paraphysis or parietal organ, and a more posteriorly situated epiphysis. In certain Cycles tomes (Petromyzon), the posterior pineal body or epiphysis is associated with the formation of a dorsal or pineal eye, while the anterior pineal organ or paraphysis forms a rudimentary eyelike structure. In Sphe nodon and in certain other lizards, the paraphysis or anterior pineal evagination develops an eyelike organ. Also, in various Amphibia (frogs; Ambystoma) rudimentary optic structures arise from the fused epiphyseal and paraphyseal diverticula. In consequence, we may assume that a primary function in some vertebrates of the dorsal, median pineal organs is to produce a dorsal, lightperceiving organ. In certain extinct vertebrates, a fully developed median dorsal eye appears to have been formed in this area.

On the other hand, the epiphysis (fig. 366A) in some reptiles, in birds and in mammals has been interpreted as a glandular organ. Various investigators have suggested different metabolic functions. However, an endocrine or essential secretory function remains to be demonstrated. (Consult Selye, ’48, p. 595.)

Many types of cells enter into the structure of the pineal gland. Among these are the chief cells, which are large and possess a clear cytoplasm. Nerve cells and neuroglial elements also are present. Various other cell types possessing granules of various kinds in the cytoplasm are recognized.

7. Adrenal (Suprarenal) Glands

The adrenal bodies are associated, as the name implies, with the renal organs or kidneys. In fishes, definite adrenal bodies are not present, but cellular aggregates, corresponding to the adrenal cells of higher vertebrates, are present and associated with the major blood vessels.

In man and other mammals, the adrenal body is composed of:

  1. an outer, yellow-colored cortex and
  2. an inner medullary area.


The medulla contains the chromaffin cells - cells which have a pronounced affinity for chromium salts, such as potassium dichromate, which stain them reddish brown and produce the so-called - "chromaffin reaction".


The hormone, secreted by the medulla, is adrenaline (epinephrine). It has marked metabolic and vasoconstrictor effects. The smooth muscle tissue of the arrector pili muscles associated with the hairs in mammals contract and raise the hair as a result of adrenaline stimulation.


The morbid state, known as Addison's disease and named after the English physician, Thomas Addison, who first described this fatal illness, arises from decreased function of the adrenal cortex. Various types of hormones have been discovered which arise from the cortical layer of the adrenal body, and a large number of steroid substances have been isolated from this area of the adrenal gland (Selye, '48, p. 89). In fishes, the cortical cell groups are isolated from those of the medulla, and, in the elasmobranch fishes, the cortex forms a separate organ. Its removal may be effected without injury to the medulla but with resulting debility, ending in death.

Embryologically, the adrenal cortex and medulla take their origin from two distinct sources. The cortex arises as a proliferation of the dorsal root of the dorsal mesentery in the area near the anterior portion of the mesonephric kidney and liver on either side (fig. 367A, B). These two proliferations give origin to two cortical masses, each lying along the anterior mesial edge of the mesonephric kidney. Further growth of these masses produces two rounded bodies, the adrenals (suprarenals), lying between the anterior portions of the mesonephric kidneys (figs. 3 A and B; 367B) and later in relation to the antero-mesial portion of the metanephric kidneys (fig. 3B-E). After the cortical masses are established, the chromaffin cells invade them from the medial side (fig. 367C). The potential chromaffin cells migrate from the sympathetic ganglia in this area. Upon reaching the site of the developing adrenal gland they move inward between the cortical cells to the center of the gland where they give origin to the medulla. With the diverse embryological origins of the cortex and the medulla, it is seen readily why two separate glandular structures are present in lower vertebrates.

In man and other mammals, a later developed secondary cortex is laid down around the primary cortex. The primary cortex, characteristic of fetal life, then comes to form the “inner cortical zone” or androgenic zone (Howard, '39).



Fig, 367. Differentiation of the adrenal (suprarenal) body. (A) Early stage in proliferation of adrenal cortical primordium from coelomic epithelium. (B) Later stage of cortex, forming rounded masses associated with cephalic ends of mesonephros. The anterior end of the mesonephros lies between the adrenal body and lateral wall of the coelom. (Compare fig. 3H and B.) (C) Cells from sympathetic ganglia penetrating medial side of primitive cortical tissue of adrenal body to form chromaffin cells of adrenal medulla.

8. Gonads

The developing gonads were described in Chapter 18, and their hormonal functions were outlined in Chapters 1 and 2.

C. Possible Influence of Endocrine Secretions on the Development of Definitive Body Form

1. Thyroid and Pituitary Glands and Anuran Metamorphosis

One of the earlier studies in this field of development was that by Gudernatsch (’12 and ’14) which showed that mammalian thyroid gland fed to anuran, and urodele larvae stimulated growth, differentiation, and metamorphosis. In a later series of studies by Allen (see Allen, ’25, for references and review) and by Hoskins (’18 and ’19), it was demonstrated that the removal of the thyroid gland in young tadpoles of Rana and Bufo prevents metamorphosis from the larval form into that of definitive body form (i.e., the adult body form). Similar results were obtained as a result of hypophysectomy (i.e., removal of the hypophysis). (See Allen, ’29, and Smith, ’16 and ’20. ) The work of these observers clearly demonstrates that the thyroid and pituitary glands are instrumental in effecting the radical transformations necessary in the assumption of definitive body form in the Anura.

2. Thyroid and Pituitary Glands in Relation to the Development of Other Vertebrate Embryos

a. Chick

1) Thyroid Gland. Studies relative to the possible effect of the thyroid gland upon the developing chick embryo are complicated by the fact that the yolk of the chick egg is composed of many other factors besides fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The yolk is a veritable storehouse for vitamins and for thyroid, sex, and possibly other hormones. Just what effect these substances have upon development is problematical. Some experiments, however, have been suggestive. Wheeler and Hoffman (’48, a and b), for example, produced goitrous chicks and retarded the hatching time of chicks from eggs laid by hens which were fed thyroprotein. Thyroprotein feeding seemingly reduced the amount of thyroid hormone deposited in the egg with subsequent deleterious effects upon the developing chicks. In normal development, the thyroid gland of the chick starts to develop during the third day and produces follicles which contain colloid by the tenth and eleventh days of incubation. Furthermore, Hopkins (’35) showed that thyroids from chick embryos of 10 days of incubation hastened metamorphosis in frog larvae. From days 8 to 14 the chick embryo undergoes the general changes which transform it from the larval form which is present during incubation days 6 to 8 into the definitive body form present at the beginning of the third week of incubation.

The foregoing evidence, therefore, while it does not demonstrate that thyroid secretion actually is being released by the developing thyroid gland into the chick’s blood stream, does suggest that the thyroid gland may be a factor in chick development and differentiation. If the chick’s thyroid gland is secreting the thyroid hormone into the chick’s blood stream during the second week of the incubation period, it is evident that the developing chick during the period when it is assuming the definitive body form has two sources of thyroid hormone to draw upon:

( 1 ) that contained within the yolk of the egg and

(2) that produced by its own thyroid gland.

2) Pituitary Gland. Relative to the development of the pituitary gland in the chick, Rahn (’39) showed that the anterior lobe develops both acidophilic and basophilic cells by the tenth day of incubation. Also, Chen, Oldham, and Ceiling (’40) demonstrated that the pituitary of chicks from eggs incubated for five days possessed a melanophore-expanding principle when administered to hypophysectomized frogs.

This general evidence, relative to the developing pituitary gland in the chick, suggests that the cells of the pituitary gland may be active functionally during the latter part of the first week and during the second week of incubation. If so, the pituitary gland may be a factor in inducing the rapid growth and changes which occur during the second week of incubation. It suggests further, that a possible release of a thyrotrophic principle may be responsible for the presence of colloid within the developing thyroid follicles during the second week of incubation.

b. Mammal

As in the chick, the developing embryo of the placental mammal is in contact with hormones from extraneous sources. Hormones are present in the amniotic fluid, while the placenta is the seat of origin of certain sex and gonadotrophic hormones. Also, the maternal blood stream, which comes in contact with embryonic placental tissues, is supplied with pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and other hormonal substances. This general hormonal environment of the developing mammalian embryo complicates the problem of drawing actual conclusions relative to the effect of the embryo’s developing endocrine system upon the differentiation of its own organ systems and growth. Nevertheless, there is circumstantial evidence, relating to possible activities of the developing, embryonic, endocrine glands upon development.

1) Thyroid Gland. Colloid storage within the follicles of the developing, human, thyroid gland is evident at 3 to 4 months. In the pig embryo, Rankin (’41 ) detected thyroxine and other iodine-containing substances in the thyroid at the 90-mm. stage, and Hall and Kaan (’42) were able to induce metamorphic effects in amphibian larvae from thyroids obtained from the fetal rat at 18 days. The foregoing studies suggest that the thyroid gland is able to function in the fetal mammal at an early stage of development. (For further references, consult Moore, ’50.)

2) Pituitary Gland. Similarly, in the pituitary gland, granulations within the cells of the anterior lobe are present in the human embryo during the third and fourth months (Cooper, ’25). Comparable conditions are found in the pituitary of the pig from 50 to 170 mm. in length (Rumph and Smith, ’26).

c. Fishes

The relationship between the thyroid and pituitary glands in the development of fishes is problematical. There is evidence in favor of a positive influence of endostylar cells and of the cells of the developing thyroid gland in the transformation of the ammocoetes larva of the cyclostome, Petromyzon, into the definitive or adult body form. Similar evidence suggests a thyroid activity relationship in the transformation of the larvae of the trout and the bony eel. However, this evidence is not indisputable, and more study is necessary before definite conclusions are possible. (Consult Lynn and Wachowski, ’51, for discussion and references.)

3. General Conclusions Relative to the Influence of the Thyroid and Pituitary Glands in Vertebrate Embryology

These conclusions are:

(a) Positive activities of the thyroid and pituitary glands are demonstrated in the transformation of the larval form into the definitive or adult form in the Anura.

(b) Suggestive evidence in favor of such an interpretation has been accumulated in fishes.

(c) Circumstantial evidence, relative to the possible activities of the thyroid and pituitary glands during the period when the embryos of the chick and mammal are transforming into the adult form, is present. With the evidence at hand, however, it is impossible to conclude definitely that these glands are a contributing factor to a change in body form (metamorphosis) in chick and mammalian embryos (fig. 256).

D. Possible Correlation of the Endocrine Glands with Sex Differentiation

a. Differentiation of Sex

a. General Sex Features in the Animal Kingdom

Many animal groups are hermaphroditic, that is, both sexes occur in the same individual. Flatworms, roundworms, oligochaetous annelids, leeches, many mollusks, and certain fishes are representatives of this condition, whereas most vertebrates, insects, and echinoderms are bisexual. If one examines the developing gonads in insects or vertebrates, it is evident that, fundamentally, the potentialities for both sexes exist in the same individual. As observed previously (Chap. 18), the early gonad is bipotential in most vertebrates, and two sets of reproductive ducts are formed. As sex is differentiated, the gonadal cortex and the Mullerian duct assume dominance in the female, while the gonadal medulla and Wolffian duct become functional if the animal is a male. Generality, therefore, gives way to specificity. Conditions thus are established in the developing reproductive system, similar to the generalized conditions to be found in other systems. If we take into consideration the fact that in a large number of animals both sexes are present in a functional state in one individual and in many bisexual species both sexes are present in a rudimentary condition in the early embryo, we arrive at the conclusion that both sexes are fundamentally present in a large majority of animal species. Sex, therefore, tends to be an hermaphroditic matter among many species of animals. The problem of sex differentiation, consequently, resolves itself into this: Why do both sexes emerge in the adult condition in a large number of animals, whereas in the development of many other animal species, only one of the two sex possibilities becomes functional?

b. Chromosomal, Sex-determining Mechanisms

A considerable body of information has been obtained which demonstrates a fundamental relationship between certain chromosomes and sex determination. The general topography of chromosomal sex-determining mechanisms has been established for a large number of species. A pair of homologous chromosomes, the so-called sex chromosomes, apparently have become specialized in carrying the genic substances directly concerned with sex determination. In many species, the members of this pair of sex-determining chromosomes appear to be identical throughout the extent of the chromosomes in one of the sexes. In the other sex, on the other hand, the two sex-determining chromosomes are not identical. When two identical chromosomes are present in a particular sex, that sex is referred to as the homogametic sex, for the reason that all of the gametes derived from this condition will possess identical sex chromosomes. However, that sex which possesses the two dissimilar chromosomes is called the heterogametic sex for it produces unlike gametes, Often the heterogametic condition is represented by one chromosome only, the other chromosome being absent. If under the above circumstances the normally appearing chromosome is called X, and the deleted, diminutive or strangely appearing chromosome is called Y, while the chromosome which is absent be designated as O, we arrive at the following formula:

XX = the homogametic sex and either XY or XO = the heterogametic sex. In many (probably in most) animal species the male is the heterogametic sex (fig. 36^A~C).

In some animal groups, however, such as the butterflies, the moths, possibly the reptiles, the birds, some fishes, and probably urodele amphibia, the female is the heterogametic sex, and the male is homogametic. In these particular groups, many authors prefer to use the designation ZZ for the homogametic sex (i.e., the male) and ZO or ZW for the female or heterogametic sex. The sex-determining mechanism in these groups, according to this arrangement, will be ZZrZW or ZZ:ZO (fig. 368D).

In endeavoring to explain the action of these chromosomal mechanisms, one of the underlying assumptions is that the genic composition of the chromosomes actively determines the sex. For example, in cases where the female sex is homogametic it is assumed that the X-chromosome contains genes which are female determining; when two (or more) X’s are present, the female sex is determined automatically. When, however, one X-chromosome is present, the determining mechanism works toward male determination. In those species where the female sex is the heterogametic sex it may be assumed that the Z-chromosome (or X-chromosome, depending upon one’s preference) contains genes which are male determining. When only one of these Z-chromosomes is present the developmental forces swing in the direction of the female sex. Sex, from this point of view, is determined by a genic balance, a balance which in turn is governed by the quality of certain genes as well as the quantitative presence of genes. (For detailed discussion consult Bridges, ’39, and White, ’48.)


Fig. 368. The sex chromosomes in man, opossum, chick, and Drosophila; parabiotic experiments in Amphibia. (A) Late primary spermatocyte in human. (A') First maturation spindle in human spermatocyte. (Redrawn from Painter, ’23, J. Exper. Zool., 37.) (B) Dividing spermatogonium in opossum testis. (B') First maturation spindle in spermatocyte of opossum. (Redrawn from Painter, ’22, J. Exper. Zool., 35.) (C)

Sex chromosomes in female Drosophila. (C') Sex chromosomes in male Drosophila. (Redrawn from Morgan, Embryology and Genetics, 1934, Columbia University Press, N. Y., after Dobzhansky.) (D) Sex chromosomes in common fowl, male. (D') Sex chromosomes in common fowl, female. (Redrawn from Bridges, 1939, Chap. 3, Sex and Internal Secretions, edited by Allen et al., Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins, after Sokolow, Tiniakow, and Trofimov.) (E-G) Diagrams illustrating the spreading of gonadal substances in frogs, toads, and salamanders. In toads, E, the gonadal influences (antagonisms) are evident only when the gonads actually are in contact. In the frogs, F, the range of influence is wider but its effect falls off peripherally. Figure G represents the condition in newts and salamanders. It is evident that in this group, some substance is carried in the blood stream which suppresses the gonads in the two females as indicated in the diagram. (Redrawn and modified slightly from Witschi, 1939, Chap. 4, Sex and Internal Secretions, edited by Allen et al., Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins.)


c. Possible Influence of the Sex Field in Sex Determination

Two gonadal sex fields, the cortical field and the medullary field, are present in the early vertebrate gonad in amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. This condition is true also of many fishes. Sex differentiation primarily is a question as to which one of these fields will assume dominance. During development in various instances, sex differentiation is clearly the result of only partial dominance on the part of one sex field, the other field emerging partly or almost completely. As a result, various types of intersexes may appear. For example, in the male toad, Bidder’s organ at the anterior part of the testis represents a suppressed cortical or ovarian field, held in abeyance by the developing testis. Surgical removal of the two testes permits the cortical field or Bidder’s organ to become free from its suppressed state. As a result, functional ovaries are developed, and the animal reverses its sex, becoming a functional female (Witschi, ’39).

One of the classical examples which demonstrates the dependence of the developing sex field upon surrounding environmental factors is the freemartin. The freemartin appears in cattle when twins of the opposite sex develop in such a manner that an anastomosis or union of some of the fetal blood vessels occurs (Lillie, ’17). Under these circumstances the female twin always experiences a transformation in the direction of maleness in the gonad and sex ducts. In those instances of freemartin development where the cortical field of the developing ovary is suppressed and the medullary area is hypertrophic, a partial or fairly well-developed testis may be formed. Under these conditions it is presumed that some substance is elaborated within the medullary field of the developing gonad of the male twin which enhances the development of the similar field in the freemartin ovary and suppresses, at the same time, the cortical field. The development of fully differentiated gametes (i.e., sperm) in the freemartin “testis” has not been demonstrated, but, on the whole, the more normally developed freemartin testis shows conditions at the time of birth which are comparable to a similar gonad of the normal male at about the same age, with the questionable presence or absence of very young germ cells. Gametogenesis in the developing testis of the bull occurs after birth. Consequently, the development of gametes in the freemartin of cattle cannot be ascertained because the freemartin gonad remains in the position of the normal ovary and does not descend into the scrotum as it does in the male (Willier, ’21). A scrotal residence (Chap. 1) is necessary for spermatogenesis in all males, possessing the scrotal condition.

A particularly interesting case of intersexuality, resulting from the lack of complete supremacy on the part of one sex field, is shown in the fowl described by Hartman and Hamilton (’22). A brief resume of its behavior and anatomy, as described by the authors, is presented herewith.

The bird was hatched as a robust chick and developed into an apparently normal Rhode Island Red pullet. The following spring the comb and wattles began to enlarge, and the bird after a few abortive attempts, learned to give the genuine crow of a rooster. ... It was often seen scratching on the ground and calling the flock to an alleged morsel of food, and though it was never seen to tread hens it would strut and make advances after the manner of cocks. . . . The female behavior of the bird was as follows. For years it would sing like a laying hen. On two occasions it adopted incubator chicks, caring for them day and night and clucking like a normal hen. ... On one occasion it dropped an egg, which though small and elongated, showed the bird to be in possession of functional ovary and oviduct.

Its internal anatomy demonstrated the presence of a left ovotestis and a right testis. An oviduct was present on the left side and a vas deferens on both sides. The right testis contained tubules, and within the tubules were ripe sperm. The ovotestis on the left side contained a cortex studded “with oocytes of every size up to a diameter of 20 mm.” and “not unlike the ovary of a normal hen approaching the laying season” (Hartman and Hamilton, ’22) . Seminiferous tubules also were present in the ovotestis which was filled with sperm.

An interesting example of complete sex reversal was produced experimentally in the axolotl, Siredon (Ambystoma) mexicanurn, by Humphrey (’41). In doing so, Humphrey orthotopically implanted an embryonic testis of Ambystoma tigrinum into an axolotl embryo of similar age. After the ovary on the opposite side of the host (i.e., the young axolotl) had changed to a testis, the implanted testis was removed. Somewhat later, the sexually reversed female axolotl was bred with other females with success. The and F 2 generations suggest that the female axolotl is heterogametic whereas the male is homogametic, with a possible XY or ZW condition in the female and an XX (or ZZ) arrangement in the male. It is interesting to observe that Humphrey obtained YY (or WW) females which were fertile.

Many other studies have been made along the lines of experimental transformation of sex. Of these, the careful studies of Witschi (’39) are illuminating. The method, employed by Witschi, was to join two embryos of opposite sex before the period of sex differentiation. In his studies, he used toad, frog, and urodele embryos. Three different results were obtained, in which the medulla or developing testicular rudiment tended to dominate and suppress the cortex or developing female sex field. For example, in toads, it was evident that the medulla suppressed the cortex only if the two fields came into actual contact; in frogs, the effect of suppression was inversely proportional to the distance of the two sex fields from each other; on the other hand, in urodeles, the substance produced by the medulla evidently circulated in the blood stream and produced its effects at a distance (fig. 368E-G). Witschi postulated the presence of two, not readily diffusible, “activator” substances, cortexin, formed by the cortex, and medullarin, elaborated by the medulla, to account for the results in the toad and frog embryos, and, in urodeles, he assumed a hormonal substance to be present.


The foregoing examples and many others (Witschi, ’39) suggest the following interpretations relative to sex determination and differentiation:

(1) The germ cell, regardless of its genetic constitution, develops into an egg or a sperm, depending upon whether it lies in a developing cortex or in a developing medulla. That is, the influence of the sex field governs the direction of germ-cell differentiation (fig. 22).

(2) The sex field is a powerful factor in determining sex. A factor (or factors) which enables an elevation to partial or complete dominance on the part of one sex field, which under normal conditions is suppressed, may result in the partial or complete reversal of sex.

(3) Differentiation of sex is dependent upon an interplay between the genes of the sex chromosomes and the bio-chemical forces present in the gonadal sex field. This interplay may be considered to work as follows; (a) If the male-sex field or medulla in a particular species is stronger than the female field or cortex, that is, if it is able to compete for substrate substances more vigorously and successfully and to produce diffusible hormonal substance more plentifully, it will suppress the female sex field. Under these conditions, the chromosomal sex-determining mechanism is established in such a way that the male is the heterogametic sex, composed of XY or XO chromosomal combinations, and the female is XX, the genes of the extra X chromosome being necessary to override the male tendency present normally in the male sex field, (b) On the other hand, if the female sex field or cortex is stronger physiologically, then the female is the heterogametic sex (XO or ZW), the homozygous condition of the sex chromosomes in the male being necessary to suppress the natural tendencies toward supremacy of the stronger female sex field, (c) It may be that the general characteristics and strength of the sex field are controlled by genes present in certain autosomal chromosomes, whereas the specific role which the particular sex field takes normally in sex differentiation is controlled by the genes in the sex chromosomes.

2. Influence of Hormones on the Differentiation of Sex

The possible effects of hormones upon sex differentiation, particularly upon the development of the accessory ducts, have been studied with great interest since F. R. Lillie’s (T7) description of freemartin development in cattle. He tentatively made the assumption that the male fetal associate of the freemartin produces a hormonal substance which, through the medium of vascular anastomoses within the placentae of the two fetuses, brings about a partial suppression of the developing ovary and effects, in part, a sex reversal in the developing reproductive organs of the female. The female member of this heterosexual relationship, therefore, is more or less changed in the direction of the male; hence, the common name freemartin.


It should be mentioned in this connection that in the marmoset, Oedipomidas geoffroyi, similar anastomoses between the placental blood vessels of heterosexual twins fail to produce the freemartin condition, both twins being normal. Species differences in the response to hormones or other sex-modifying substances therefore occur (Wislocki, ’32).

The studies made in an endeavor to ascertain the influences which sex hormones play in the development of the reproductive system and in sexual differentiation have produced the following general results.

Developing ovaries and testes and the reproductive ducts of birds, frogs, and urodeles may show various degrees of sex reversal when the developing young are exposed to hormones or other humeral substances of the opposite sex. There is some evidence to the effect that sex reversal by sex hormones is accomplished more readily and completely from the homogametic sex to the heterogametic sex, suggesting, possibly, that the sex field of the heterogametic sex is the stronger and more resistant. The reproductive ducts are more responsive to change than are the gonads (Burns, ’38, ’39a; Domm, ’39; Mintz, Foote, and Witschi, ’45; Puckett, ’40; Willier, ’39; and Witschi, ’39).

In mammals, the gonads (ovary and testis) appear quite immune to the presence of sex hormones, whereas the reproductive ducts respond partially to the sex hormone of the opposite sex. The caudal parts of the genital passages are more sensitive to change than are the more anterior portions (Burns, ’39b, ’42; Greene, Burrill, and Ivy, ’42; and Moore, ’41, ’50).

Castration experiments before and shortly after birth in mammals produce the following effects:

(1) Removal of the testis results in retardation and suppression of the male duct system, while it allows the female duct system to develop.

(2) Removal of the ovary does not affect the female duct system until the time of puberty.

(See LaVelle, ’51, and Moore, ’50, for extensive references and discussion.)

The general conclusions to be drawn from the above experiments, relative to the differentiation of the reproductive ducts, are as follows:

(1) The reproductive ducts are responsive to sex hormones after they are formed in the embryo.

(2) The male duct system normally responds to humeral substances, elaborated by the developing testis soon after it is formed.

(3) The female duct system probably is not dependent upon hormonal secretion for its development until about the time of sexual maturity.

(4) The developing ovary, unlike the developing testis, probably under normal conditions does not elaborate sex hormones in large amounts until about the time of sexual maturity.

3. General Summary of the Factors Involved in Sex Differentiation in the Vertebrate Group

The sex glands (gonads) and the reproductive ducts appear to arise independently of each other.

The primitive gonad is composed of two main parts:

( 1 ) the primordial germ cells and

(2) cellular structures which act as supporting and enveloping structures for the germ cells.

The presence of the primitive germ cells probably is a primary requisite for the development of a functional reproductive gland (see p. 121).

In the differentiation of the gonad, two basic sex fields or territories appear to be involved in Tetrapoda and probably also in most fishes. These territories are:

( 1 ) the medulla or testis-forming territory and

(2) the cortex or ovary -forming area.

The sex fields may be controlled by the genes in the autosomal chromosomes, and there probably is a tendency for one or the other of these fields to be functionally stronger than the other. The heterogametic (XY, XO, ZW or ZO) conditions of the sex chromosomes appear to be associated with the stronger sex field, and the homogametic (i.e., XX or ZZ) combination is associated with the weaker sex field.

During development, presumably, there is a struggle for supremacy through competition for substrate substances (see Dalcq, ’49) by these two sex fields and, under normal conditions, the sex chromosomal mechanism determines which of the two sex fields shall be suppressed and which shall rise to domination. The sex chromosomes thus control the direction of sex differentiation, whereas the field or territory elaborates the power of differentiation.

Disturbing influences may upset the sex-determining mechanism set forth above, and various degrees of hermaphroditism may arise in the same individual in proportion to the degree of escape permitted the normally suppressed sex field.

The sex ducts arise in association with the pronephric kidney and its duct, the pronephric (mesonephric) duct. The Mullerian or female duct arises by a longitudinal splitting of the original pronephric (mesonephric) ducts (e.g., in elasmobranchs) or by an independent caudal growth of a small invagination of the coelomic epithelium at the anterior end of the mesonephric kidney (e.g., reptiles, birds, and mammals). This independent caudal growth is dependent, however, upon the pre-existence of the mesonephric duct (Chap. 18). In the urodeles, the Mullerian duct appears to arise partly from an independent origin and in part from contributions of the mesonephric duct.


Two sets of primitive ducts thus are established in the majority of vertebrates in each sex, the Mullerian or female duct and the mesonephric (pronephric) or male duct

During later normal development, the Mullerian duct is developed in the female, while, in the male, the mesonephric duct is retained and elaborated as the functional, male reproductive duct.

The male duct system is dependent upon secretions from the developing testis for its realization during the later embryonic period and during postnatal development, whereas the female duct develops independently of the ovary up to the time of sexual maturity when its behavior is altered greatly by the presence of the ovarian hormones.

Bibliography

Allen, B. M. 1929. The influence of the thyroid gland and hypophysis upon growth and development of amphibian larvae. Quart. Rev. Biol. 4:325.

. 1925. The effects of extirpation of the thyroid and pituitary glands upon the limb development of anurans. J. Exper. Zool. 42:13.

Brahms, S. 1932. The development of the hypophysis in the cat (Felis domestica). Am. J. Anat. 50:251.

Bridges, C. B. 1939. Chap. II, Cytological and genetic basis of sex. Sex and Internal Secretions, 2nd Edition. Edited by Allen, et al., Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore.

Burns, R. K., Jr. 1938. The effects of crystalline sex hormones on sex differentiation in Amhly stoma, I. Estrone. Anat. Rec. 71:447.

. 1939a. The effects of crystalline sex hormones on sex differentiation in Amblystoma. II. Testosterone propionate. Anat. Rec. 73:73.

. 1939b. Sex differentiation during the early pouch stages of the opossum (Didelphys virginiana) and a comparison of the anatomical changes induced by male and female sex hormones. J. Morphol. 65:497.

. 1942. Hormones and experimental modification of sex in the opossum. Biol. Symp. 9: 125.

Chen, G., Oldham, F. K., and Geiling, E. M. K. 1940. Appearance of the melanophore-expanding hormone of the pituitary gland in the developing chick embryo. Proc. Soc. Exper. Biol. & Med. 45:810.


Cooper, E. R. A. 1925. The histology of the more important human endocrine organs at various ages. Oxford University Press, Inc., New York.

Dalcq, A. M. 1949. The concept of physiological competition (Spiegelman) and the interpretation of vertebrate morphogenesis. Exp. Cell Research, Supplement 1, Bonnier, Stockholm and Academic Press, New York.

Domm, L. V. 1939. Chap. V. Modifications in sex and secondary sexual characters in birds in Sex and Internal Secretions by Allen, et al., 2d ed.. The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore.

Greene, R. R., Burrill, M. W., and Ivy, A. C. 1942. Experimental intersexuality. The relative sensitivity of male and female rat embryos to administered estrogens and androgens. Physiol. Zodl. 15:1.

Gudernatsch, J. F. 1912. Feeding experiments on tadpoles. I. The influence of specific organs given as food on growth and differentiation. A contribution to the knowledge of organs with internal secretion. Arch. f. Entwicklngsmech. d. Organ. 35:457.

, 1914. Feeding experiments on tadpoles. II. A further contribution to the knowledge of organs with internal secretion. Am. Jour. Anat. 15:431.

Hall, A. R., and Kaan, H. W. 1942. Anatomical and physiological studies on the thyroid gland of the albino rat. Anat. Rec. 84:221.

Hartman, C. G., and Hamilton, W. F. 1922. A case of true hermaphroditism in the fowl, with remarks upon secondary sex characters. J. Exper. ZooL 36:185.

Hopkins, M. L. 1935. Development of the thyroid gland in the chick embryo. J. Morphol. 58:585.

Hoskins, E. R. and M. M. 1918. Further experiments with thyroidectomy in Amphibia. Proc. Soc. Exper. Biol. & Med. 15:102.

. 1919. Growth and development of Amphibia as affected by thyroidectomy. J. Exper. Zool. 29:1.

Howard, E. 1939. Effects of castration on the seminal vesicles as influenced by age, considered in relation to the degree of development of the adrenal X zone. Am. J. Anat. 65:105.

LaVelle, F. W. 1951. A study of hormonal factors in the early sex development of the golden hamster. Contrib. to Embryol. Carnegie Inst., Washington, Publ. 34:223.

Lillie, F. R. 1917. The free-martin; a study of the action of sex hormones in the fetal life of cattle. J. Exper. Zool. 23:371.

Lynn, W. G., and Wachowski, H. E. 1951. The thyroid gland and its functions in cold-blooded vertebrates. Quart. Rev. Biol. 26:123.

Mintz, B., Foote, C. L,, and Witschi, E. 1945. Quantitative studies on response of sex characters of differentiated Rana clamitans larvae to injected androgens and estrogens. Endocrinology. 37:286.

Moore, C. R. 1941. On the role of sex hormones in sex differentiation in the opossum {Didelphys virginiana). Physiol. Zool. 14:1.

. 1950. The role of the fetal endocrine glands in development. J. Clin. Endocrinol. 10:942.

Puckett, W. O. 1940. Some effects of crystalline sex hormones on the differentiation of the gonads of an undifferentiated race of Rana catesbiana tadpoles. J. Exper. Zool. 84:39.

Rahn, H. 1939. The development of the chick pituitary with special reference to the cellular differentiation of the pars buccalis. J. Morph. 64:483.


Rankin, R. M. 1941. Changes in the content of iodine compounds and in the histological structure of the thyroid gland of the pig during fetal life .Anat. Rec. 80:123.

Rumph, P., and Smith, P. E. 1926. The first occurrence of secretory products and of a specific structural differentiation in the thyroid and anterior pituitary during the development of the pig foetus. Anat. Rec. 33:289.

Selye, H. 1948. Textbook of Endocrinology. Universite de Montreal, Montreal, Canada.

Smith, P. E. 1916. The effect of hypophysectomy in the early embryo upon growth and development of the frog. Anat. Rec. 11:57.

. 1920. The pigmentary growth and endocrine disturbances induced in the anuran tadpole by the early ablation of the pars buccalis of the hypophysis. Am. Anat. Memoirs. 11, The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, Philadelphia.

Wheeler, R. S., and Hoffman, E. 1948a. Goitrous chicks from thyroprotein-fed hens. Endocrinology. 42:326.

and . 1948b. Influence of quantitative thyroprotein treatment of hens on length of incubation period and thyroid size of chicks. Endocrinology. 43:430.

White, M. J. D. 1948. Animal Cytology and Evolution, Chap. XI. Cambridge University Press, London.

Willier, B. E. 1921. Structures and homologies of free-martin gonads. J. Exper. Zool. 33:63.

. 1939. Chap. III. The embryonic development of sex in Sex and Internal Secretions by Allen, et al., 2d ed.. The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore.

Wislocki, G. B. 1932. Placentation in the marmoset {Oedipomidas geoffroyi) with remarks on twinning in monkeys. Anat. Rec. 52:381.

Witschi, E. 1939. Chap. IV. Modification of the development of sex in lower vertebrates and in mammals in Sex and Internal Secretions by Allen, et al., 2d ed., The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore.



Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, December 9) Embryology Book - Comparative Embryology of the Vertebrates 4-21. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Book_-_Comparative_Embryology_of_the_Vertebrates_4-21

What Links Here?
© Dr Mark Hill 2019, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G