Nose - in Fish

In Fish

Fish generally have a weak sense of smell, which is generally less important than taste in an aquatic environment. They do, however, possess a nose, although, unlike that of tetrapods, it has no connection with the mouth, nor any role in respiration. Instead, it generally consists of a pair of small pouches located behind the nostrils at the front or sides of the head. In many cases, each of the nostrils is divided into two by a fold of skin, allowing water to flow into the nose through one side and out through the other.

The pouches are lined by olfactory epithelium, and commonly include a series of internal folds to increase the surface area. In some teleosts, the pouches branch off into additional sinus-like cavities, while in coelacanths, they form a series of tubes. Unlike tetrapods, the nasal epithelium of fishes does not include any mucus-secreting cells, since it is already naturally moist.

In the most primitive living vertebrates, the lampreys and hagfish, there is only one nostril and olfactory pouch. Indeed, the nostril also opens into the hypophysis. This is not necessarily, however, a primitive trait, but one that may have arisen later in the evolution of these particular groups. For example, the fossil heterostracans had paired nostrils, and these were also a very early vertebrate group.

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