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An overview of vertebrate endocrine regulation and its evolution from protochordates to mammals

By: , Posted on: January 22, 2021

Every aspect of our physiology and behavior is directly controlled or modified by regulatory chemicals secreted by specialized cells in our bodies.  These bioregulators include neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, neurohormones, hormones, cytocrines and paracrines.  The study of the endocrine glands and the hormones they secrete was the original focus of the discipline of endocrinology. This study is the perfect opportunity to unite everything a student has learned about physiology to develop a truly dynamic view of how an organism functions by seeing how all the individual systems are linked together from conception through development, sexual maturation, reproduction, and aging.

Today, we recognize that tissues (e.g., adipose tissue and skeletal muscle) and organs (e.g., kidneys, heart, liver) produce many bioregulators that interact. Hence, we include them all under the endocrinology umbrella, especially the nervous system, the classical endocrine system, and the immune system.  And it is important to understand how these interacting bioregulators operate at extremely low concentrations to produce their effects and how their synthesis, mechanisms of action, and rates of degradation and/or excretion also can be affected by natural events such as disease and climate as well as by human activities.  What we have learned about bioregulation in humans and other mammals is essentially true of all other vertebrates (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and birds) with some fascinating differences that emphasize how bioregulation has evolved within the vertebrates.

Our book, Vertebrate Endocrinology 6th edition, provides an overview of bioregulation and its evolution from fishes to mammals by focusing first on the mammalian systems followed by an evaluation of nonmammals. It is illustrated with 372 full-color and 43 black and white figures and 133 tables designed to explain and summarize essential details The book itself has “evolved” since the first edition in 1980 to be the only textbook of its kind today.  It has benefitted greatly from the experience gained by the authors and who have taught both mammalian and comparative vertebrate endocrinology classes for a total of 70 years as well as from input by hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students as well as other instructors who have used the book.  The chapters are organized so that an instructor can focus entirely on the mammalian systems or can follow up each mammalian chapter with a chapter that compares nonmammals to the mammalian system.  Each chapter is followed by a short summary, a list of study questions, and a list of readings for those who want to go more deeply into certain topics.  The final chapter is a comprehensive look at how natural environmental factors such as photoperiod influence vertebrate physiology and behavior as well as how humans are affecting bioregulation through climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution by endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Ready to read the book?

Vertebrate Endocrinology 6th edition is available now on ScienceDirect. Or purchase your own copy from the bookstore and save 30% + get free shipping with promo code STC30.

About the Authors:

Dr. David O. Norris

Dr. David O. Norris (B.S., Baldwin Wallace University, 1961; PhD 1966, University of Washington) was a professor at the University of Colorado for 46 years where he studied environmental endocrinology of fishes and amphibians and taught general biology, endocrinology, human physiology, histology, vertebrate biology, and forensic biology. His endocrine research interests involve the role of natural and anthropogenic factors (pollutants) that operate through the brain and pituitary to influence thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive physiology that in turn affect development, sexual differentiation, reproduction, and aging. He retired from CU in 2012 and currently is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Integrative Physiology.  Professional organization memberships include The Endocrine Society, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Society for Environmental toxicology and Chemistry, and the North American Society for Comparative Endocrinology.  Dr. Norris also does research in forensic botany and consults with law enforcement groups on homicides and other crimes He is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Dr. Norris has published more than 150 scientific papers and abstracts in environmental endocrinology and forensic botany and is the senior author on several other books including Endocrine Disruption: Implications for Health of Wildlife and Humans (Oxford University Press, 2005), a five-volume work on Hormones and Reproduction of Vertebrates (Academic Press, 2011) and joint author of Forensic Plant Science (Academic Press, 2016).

Dr. James A. Carr

Dr. James A. Carr (B.S., Rutgers University, 1982; PhD 1988, University of Colorado, Boulder; NIMH Postdoctoral Trainee, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, 1991) has been a professor at Texas Tech University for 29 years where he studies neuroendocrinology and the environmental endocrinology of amphibians and fishes. Dr. Carr has taught physiology,  endocrinology, histology, and neurobiology. His endocrine research interests involve the neuroendocrinology of stress, the role of peptide neuromodulators in visually guided behavior, and laboratory and field studies into the role of EDCs that adversely influence thyroid and reproductive physiology. Professional organization memberships include the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the North American Society for Comparative Endocrinology, the Society for Neuroscience, and the European Society for Comparative Endocrinology.  Dr. Carr holds editorial board positions on the journals General and Comparative Endocrinology and Frontiers in Endocrinology in addition to guest editing several special topics issues related to stress endocrinology and endocrine disruption. Dr. Carr has published more than 100 scientific papers and book chapters in neuroendocrinology and environmental endocrinology and is the co-author of Endocrine Disruption: Implications for Health of Wildlife and Humans (Oxford University Press, 2005).

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