This chapter studies hermaphroditism in vertebrates. Hermaphroditism is displayed in several hundred species of bony fishes (teleosts) distributed across about 30 taxonomic families in a dozen orders. Most of these dual-sex fishes are sequential hermaphrodites that change sex sometime in life after an initial stage either as a male (protandry) or as a female (protogyny). The fact that many fish lineages display hermaphroditism whereas other vertebrate lineages do not is a testimony to the sexual flexibility of fishes as compared with mammals, birds, and many reptiles and amphibians. Such flexibility has two interrelated aspects: evolutionary and ontological. The evolutionary aspect of flexibility is registered by the polyphyletic nature of hermaphroditism in fishes, and also by the relatively rapid evolutionary interconversions between sexual modes, and between different expressions of hermaphroditism. Sequential hermaphroditism itself is prima facie evidence for the ontogenetic aspect of sexual flexibility in fishes.
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