Seasonal and age changes in the thymus gland of the Red fox, Vulpes vulpes,



Seasonal and age changes in thymus weight and histological structure were examined in the Red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Growth in the fox thymus slowed down after birth compared with the last third of foetal existence, but the gland still grew rapidly to reach a peak first year weight when the cubs were 20 weeks of age. From this point the thymus in both sexes decreased markedly in weight to reach a low point by the beginning of the first breeding season. During this involution lobule structure broke down and adipose tissue and connective tissue was laid down in the gland. Recovery of the thymus towards the second year weight maximum was accompanied by the regaining of lobule structure and the gland resembled that of the juvenile again. The male thymus increased in weight from the middle of the mating season, but recovery in the female thymus was delayed until the end of lactation. Involution occurred prior to the second breeding season. Thereafter, the gland never attained the high weights seen in the first two years of life, but histological changes still occurred even in old animals. The thymus gland of animals infected with sarcoptic mange is described.