The skin surface of bony fishes



The cuticle described by light microscopists on the skin of various fishes, has been studied by electron microscopy in several species of teleost and in two other actinopterygian fish. Thelcuticle consists of an external coating layer, probably of mucopolysaccharide, which is secreted from the surface epidermal cells, not from the goblet mucous cells. The thickness of the cuticle is commonly of the order of 1 μm. It is particularly well developed in Trigla, where its thickness may vary from a fraction of a micron up to 50 μm, on different parts of the same individual. The cuticle has been detected in species from diverse orders, and is probably a normal constituent of the skin of all bony fishes. It is frequently lost during histological preparation. The external coat continues over the apertures of taste-buds, and may be continuous with the secretion at the mouths of chloride secreting cells. The secretion of the cuticle is partly from, or through, the outer membrane of the epidermal cells, but there is some evidence that cytoplasmic inclusions in the surface epidermal cells are also involved. There is striking variation in the appearance of these inclusions in electron micrographs of different species, and in some cases in different parts of the same fish, notably in Blennius. Certain of the inclusions are membrane-bounded vesicles whose contents are more electron-dense after staining with phosphotungstic acid than with lead citrate. In other cases, the inclusions are electron-transparent vacuoles. The cuticle is briefly compared with similar structures in other aquatic animals.