Our pituitary gland produces hormones that control bodily functions including growth, temperature, sex drive and the conversion of food into energy. Any malfunction can have dire consequences for health. The gland is hard to study in action, however, being no bigger than a pea and located in a bony cavity at the base of the brain. Animals with more accessible endocrine systems can provide useful insights into how hormones are produced, transported and released in parts of the body where they are needed. Here, we see an x-organ sinus gland of a crab – there is one in each eyestalk – preparing to release hormones, packaged into little balls (stained blue), into the bloodstream. While the human pituitary gland behaves in a similar way, further comparisons are limited because the crab’s hormones control shell shedding, buoyancy and change of body colour.
Written by Mick Warwicker
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.