Evolution of Descent of the Testis and Early History of Research

  • John M. Hutson
  • Jørgen M. Thorup
  • Spencer W. Beasley


Testicular descent has evolved in mammals, with numerous adaptations to keep the testis and epididymis cool.Review of the evolution shows only a few mammals with normal intra-abdominal testes (e.g. rock hyrax, elephant and some aquatic mammals) located in the same place as the ovaries. Most mammals have testes that have descended to beyond the abdominal wall, but in many full descent into a subcutaneous scrotum only occurs in the breeding season. In some primates, such as the macaque, have prenatal descent into the scrotum but the testes reside in the inguinal region till puberty, similar to a pathological ascending testis in humans. Review of the comparative anatomy shows the close link between the site of the scrotum and the mammary glands in species as widely apart as marsupials (kangaroo and wallaby) and ungulates (cattle).Early research on testicular descent begins with the description by John Hunter of the gubernaculum in 1762, and the morphology was quite well understood by the 19th century. However, with the development of endocrinology in the 20th century, most of the morphology was forgotten until the 1980’s, when it was appreciated that testicular descent occurs in several distinct morphological and hormonal steps.


Androgen Receptor Inguinal Region Inguinal Canal Undescended Testis Female Fetus 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Hutson
    • 1
  • Jørgen M. Thorup
    • 2
  • Spencer W. Beasley
    • 3
  1. 1.Royal Children’s Hospital University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Univ. Hospital of Copenhagen RigshospitaletKøbenhavnDenmark
  3. 3.University of OtagoChristchurchNew Zealand

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