Fundulus heteroclitus: Ovarian reproductive physiology and the impact of environmental contaminants
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Fundulus heteroclitus, the mummichog or Atlantic killifish, is the dominant small-bodied fish species of the east coast estuaries and salt marshes of Canada and the USA, where it is present as two subspecies, the northern F. h. macrolepidotus and the southern F. h. heteroclitus. Recently identified as the premier teleost model in environmental biology, the species has long been of value in understanding evolved tolerance to toxicants and more lately in adding to our knowledge about reproductive effects of environmental endocrine disruptors. The body of literature on F. heteroclitus ovarian physiology and reproduction, from both field and laboratory studies, provides the foundation for present work focused on understanding the reproductive effects and modes of action of environmental toxicants. In this paper, we review the environmental and endocrine factors controlling ovarian and reproductive cycling in F. heteroclitus, noting specifics related to field and laboratory studies on the two subspecies as well as key research gaps compared to other fish species. We also summarize recent development of methodologies to study the effects of environmental contaminants on endocrine signalling and egg production in F. heteroclitus. Continued efforts to progress both our fundamental understanding of reproductive physiology in mummichog, coupled with studies focused on the modes of action of environmental contaminants, have high potential to further develop this teleost model. While the model may presently lag behind those based on other species of fish, the unique biochemical and physiological adaptations which allow F. heteroclitus to adapt to changing environmental and toxic conditions provide a valuable experimental system for comparative physiologists, ecotoxicologists and evolutionary biologists.
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