The sun and its rays are indispensable for a healthy life, no matter what species you come from. But, like everything in life, it is important that exposure to the sun be carried out with moderation. Us humans naturally produce melanin, a pigment in our skin that helps us keep safe from too much sun, and we add potent sunscreen on top of that. But it looks like fish can produce their very own sunscreen.
The substance is called gadusol and it was previously thought that fish get it from eating bacteria and algae, that have been known to produce it . According to a recent study conducted at Oregon State University, fish are able to produce the substance all on their own.
The key subject of the study was the zebrafish, or Danio rerio by its full name, a species widely used in scientific research. And it looks like they can produce gadusol starting from their embryonic state.
This substance doesn’t only have sunscreen value, as it also possesses antioxidant properties. So additional research needs to be conducted in order to assess its full potential.
It seems that there is a gene that dictates the production of gadusol and scientists have identified it in the gene pool of fish and other animals. Where it is absent however is in mammals. Therefore, it is safe to assume that it has had some purpose in evolution.
The gadusol gene is called EEVS and MT-Ox and it has been identified in fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds. The origin of this gene is believed to be in some ancient common relative of the current animal series and it appears that while some species still possess it, other have lost it.
The transfer of this gene has been accomplished via algae, the study suggests. But it is not yet known why it mammals have lost it along the way.
“Overall, this work illuminates a novel pathway that constructs an important biological sunscreen, but it also raises a number of questions,”, said Harvard scientists who analyzed the paper.
So aside from future work on the properties of gadusol itself, important research will be conducted on further studying the EEVS and MT-Ox gene in the animal series, in order to find out why some species lost it along the way.
Therefore, the fact that fish are capable of producing their own sunscreen might hide quite a few more mysteries then you would initially think. Oregon State University’s gadusol gene study has been published in the journal eLife on Thursday, May 13th.
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