Diversity and plasticity of sex determination and differentiation in fishes

Y. Kobayashi, Y. Nagahama, M. Nakamura

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

189 Citations (Scopus)


Among vertebrates, fishes show an exceptional range of reproductive strategies regarding the expression of their sexuality. Fish sexualities were categorized into gonochorism, synchronous/sequential hermaphrodite, or unisexual reproduction. In gonochoristic fishes, sex is determined genetically or by environmental factors. After sex determination, the gonads are differentiated into ovary or testis, with the sex remaining fixed for the entire life cycle. In contrast, some sequential hermaphrodite fishes can change their sex from male to female (protandrous), female to male (protogynous), or serially (bi-directional sex change) in their life cycle. In many cases, sex change is cued by social factors such as the disappearance of a male or female from a group. This unique diversity in fishes provides an ideal animal model to investigate sex determination and differentiation in vertebrates. This review first discusses genetic-orientated sex determination mechanisms. Then, we address the gonadal sex differentiation process in a gonochoristic fish, using an example of the Nile tilapia. Finally, we discuss various types of sex change that occur in hermaphrodite fishes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
JournalSexual Development
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Gobiid fish
  • Gonadal sex differentiation
  • Sex change
  • Sex determination
  • Tilapia
  • Wrasse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology


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