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Fish Physiology turns 50

By: , Posted on: February 5, 2020

As the book series Fish Physiology turns 50 David J. Randall, one of the founding editors looks back over its history.

I came from England to the University of British Columbia (UBC) as a naïve 24-year-old assistant professor. A few years later Bill Hoar, professor and head of Zoology at UBC, asked if I would be interested in joining him as an editor of a new endeavor: Fish Physiology.  We prepared a six volume treatise to be published with the hope that it would serve biologists of the 1970s as Margaret Brown’s “The Physiology of Fishes” had served its readers throughout the 1960s. She had found it impossible to undertake the editorial work associated with the production of this new treatise and we agreed to assume the task. The first volume was published in 1969. I was amazed when Colin Brauner pointed out that the “Fish Physiology” series, which is what it has become, is now 50 years old and comprises 37 titled volumes (45 if the A and B volumes are counted).

You can access Chapter 1: The changing ocean and freshwater CO2 system from the latest volume, Carbon Dioxide on ScienceDirect for a limited time, now.

Neither Bill Hoar nor I had any intention of continuing the series beyond six volumes, but the response was such that we developed additional volumes covering in-depth analysis of specific areas of fish biology. Roly Brett was the first to assist us with the design and production of these volumes. We relied more and more on advice from the scientific community when developing these volumes. Bill and I continued to work on Fish Physiology, with the interval between volumes depending on developments in the field and how ready we were to spend time on the editing process. Bill eventually retired and I had had enough! At an international meeting, I discussed this with several colleagues and they persuaded me to continue with guest editors to spread the load. I got them to make promises of support because I had come to learn that advice is cheap and freely given but promised help can easily evaporate. Tony Farrell agreed to join me as an editor in this new enterprise. Eventually I retired and Colin Brauner assumed the challenge.

The book series is the result of many contributions of the members of the international consortium of fish physiologists and other interested persons. They are many subgroups but no overarching structure or organization of this broad collection of like-minded people who have found it useful to have this summary of their efforts and hopes. The volumes have little in common except for publisher imposed length and general structure. Each volume represents the views of individual specialists on the subject under discussion. However, while discussing functional processes, the authors have referred to a wealth of comparative material so that the treatise has become more than an account of the physiology of fishes; it contains many fundamental concepts and principles important in the broad field of comparative animal physiology. The treatise has survived where others (e.g., Physiology of Reptiles) have long disappeared. I think the longevity is because the volumes serve and belong to the community of Fish Physiologists.

During the life of the series publishers have changed but have always been supportive, despite changes in the business with the advent of the internet. In addition, the world has become a much more bureaucratic and conservative place, with sound bites, fake news, and less regard for the rigor of scientific study. Careful analysis of data and ideas has been central to the presentation of Fish Physiology, avoiding celebrity status, promotion, and politics. The volumes have maintained their initial focus to serve a broad range of fish physiologists.

In the preface to Volume 1, Bill and I expressed the hope that Fish Physiology would prove as valuable in fisheries research laboratories as in university reference libraries and that it would be a rich source of detailed information for the comparative physiologist and the zoologist as well as the specialist in fish physiology. It has fulfilled this hope because of the efforts of many people. I thank them all for their hard work and continued support.


You can access Chapter 1: The changing ocean and freshwater CO2 system from the latest volume, Carbon Dioxide on ScienceDirect for a limited time, now.

Want your own copy? Enter code STC320 when you order via the Elsevier store and save up to 30%.

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