The skin of fish as a transport epithelium: a review
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The primary function of fish skin is to act as a barrier. It provides protection against physical damage and assists with the maintenance of homoeostasis by minimising exchange between the animal and the environment. However in some fish, the skin may play a more active physiological role. This is particularly true in species that inhabit specialised environmental niches (e.g. amphibious and air-breathing fish such as the lungfish), those with physiological characteristics that may subvert the need for the integument as a barrier (e.g. the osmoconforming hagfish), and/or fish with anatomical modifications of the epidermis (e.g. reduced epithelial thickness). Using examples from different fish groups (e.g. hagfishes, elasmobranchs and teleosts), the importance of fish skin as a transport epithelium for gases, ions, nitrogenous waste products, and nutrients was reviewed. The role of the skin in larval fish was also examined, with early life stages often utilising the skin as a surrogate gill, prior to the development of a functional branchial epithelium.
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