Skip to main content
Log in

Gross Anatomy and Histology of the Hook and Skin of Forehead Brooding Male Nurseryfish, Kurtus Gulliveri, From Northern Australia

  • Published:
Environmental Biology of Fishes Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Mature males of nurseryfish have a hook on their head to which the eggs become attached and are carried like a bunch of grapes. This paper examines the anatomy and histology of the hook. The osteological basis of the hook is shown to be a modification of the supraoccipital crest of the skull covered by typical teleost skin. The integument in the cleft of the hook, where the eggs are attached, is considerably different from ordinary fish skin. The stratified epidermis is devoid of secretory mucus and neurosensory cells and is folded into crypts that extend deeply into the dermis. This may be a specialization that facilitates adhesion of the sticky egg mass. Field observations show that this cleft area of the hook is edematous, and histology confirms that the area is highly vascularized. We speculate that this may facilitate gas exchange and/or nutrition between the male and the egg mass, but this can only be confirmed by physiological experiments with ‘pregnant males’ in captivity. Engorgement with blood in the highly vascularised dermis of the hook may help hold the egg mass in place.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References cited

  • Balon, E.K. 1975. Reproductive guilds of fishes: a proposal and definition. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 32: 821–864.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beaufort, L.F. de. 1914. Die Anatomie und systematische Stellung des Genus Kurtus Bloch. Gegenbaurs Morphologisches Jahrbuch 48: 391–410.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berglund, A., G. Rosenqvist & I. Svensson. 1986. Reversed sex roles and parental energy investment in zygotes of two pipefish (Syngnathidae) species. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 29: 209–215.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berra, T.M. 2001. Freshwater fish distribution. Academic Press, San Diego. 604 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berra, T.M. & D. Wedd. 2001. Alimentary canal anatomy and diet of the nurseryfish, Kurtus gulliveri (Perciformes: Kurtidae), from the Northern Territory of Australia. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 17: 21–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock, T.H. 1991. The evolution of parental care. Princeton University Press, New Jersey. 352 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Culling, C.F.A. 1976. Histology. pp. 876–1043. In: S.S. Raphael, C.F.A. Culling, S. Thomson & F. Sergovich (ed.) Lynch's Medical Laboratory Technology Volume ll, third edition, W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grzelewski, D. 2001. Risky business. Smithsonian 32(8): 88–95.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hardenberg, J.D.F. 1936. On a collection of fishes from the estuary of the lower and middle course of the River Kapuas (W. Borneo). Treubia, Buitzenzorg 15: 225–254.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haresign, T.W. & S.E. Shumway. 1981. Permeability of the marsupium of the pipefish, Syngnathus fuscus to [14C]-alpha amino isobutyric acid. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 69A: 603–604.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jones, A.G. & J.C. Avise. 2001. Mating systems and sexual selection in male-pregnant pipefishes and seahorses: insights from microsatellite-based studies of maternity. J. Hered. 92: 150–158.

    Google Scholar 

  • Messel, H., C. Gans, A.G. Wells & W. J. Green. 1979. The Adelaide, Daly and Moyle rivers. Surveys of tidal river systems in the Northern Territory of Australia and their crocodile populations. Monograph No. 3, Pergamon Press, Sydney. 58 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, J. S. 1994. Fishes of the world, 3rd ed. Wiley, New York. 600 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, R.J. & A. E. Ellis. 2001. The anatomy and physiology of teleosts. pp. 12–54. In: R.J. Roberts (ed.) Fish Pathology, third edition, Bailliere Tindall, London.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weber, M. 1910. A new case of parental care among fishes. Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam 13: 583–587.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weber, M. 1913. Süsswasserfische aus Niederländisch süd-und nord-Neu-Guinea. pp. 513–613, pl. 12–14. In: Résultats de L'Expédition Scientifique Néerlandaise à la Nouvelle-Guinée en 1907 et 1909, Vol. 9, Zoologie, Leiden.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wetzel, J., J.P. Wourms & J. Friel. 1997. Comparative morphology of cotylephores in Platystacus and Solenostomus: modifications of the integument for egg attachment in skin-brooding fishes. Env. Biol. Fish. 50: 13–25.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Berra, T.M., Humphrey, J.D. Gross Anatomy and Histology of the Hook and Skin of Forehead Brooding Male Nurseryfish, Kurtus Gulliveri, From Northern Australia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 65, 263–270 (2002).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: