Sunday, 30 April, 2017

Venomous fish may lead to new pain killers, finds new research

Fang blenny skull Sabre-tooth fish injects predators with heroin-like venom
Tracy Craig | 04 April, 2017, 04:53

The fierce-looking fang blenny, also known as the poison-fang blenny or the sabre-tooth blenny, fends off predators and competitors by injecting them with a heroin-like substance that impairs them rather than kills them. According to the magazine Science, blenny venom causes the victim's blood pressure to fall by around 40 percent for a short period of time.

Nature usually equips its deadliest specimens with poison before giving them the tools to deploy it, but researchers at Current Biology have found that the Fang Blenny developed its distinctive canines, and then splintered into two distinctive groups: one with venom glands, the other not.

The researchers noted that the opioid peptide found in fang blennies' venom act like heroine and morphine, inhibiting pain rather than causing it.

'They would be more likely to drown than win gold'.

"The predators would shake and quiver, and open their jaws and gills really wide", says Nick Casewell of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK, and joint leader of a team that has established the ingredients of blenny venom. One member of the family, the fang-blenny, is quite remarkable. the fish has sharp, fang-like teeth.

A two fanged coral reef fish that disables predators with heroin-like venom could offer hope for the development of new painkillers. This causes would-be attackers to become dizzy and sluggish when bitten, preventing them from eating the blennies. One causes mild pain, explaining Losey's discomfort when he was bitten.

Another surprise from the study was the evidence suggesting that fang blenny fangs evolved before the venom.

The researchers surmise that the drop in blood pressure is probably due to the neuropeptide and opioid components, which can leave predators feeling disoriented and prevent them from pursuing the fish.

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If you want to see evolution at its most attractive and deadly, look no further than this tiny fish that puts its predators into a drugged stupor. The most pain I've ever been in other than the time I broke my back was from a stingray envenomation.

This means that we should protect the environment in which the venomous fang blenny lives. Study co-author Bryan Fry surmises that this combination "can produce sensations of extremely unpleasant nausea and dizziness".

Casewell and his colleagues in Australia and elsewhere have found three main components, all of them previously identified in other animals.

Though the fang blennies are relatively small, they have large lower canine teeth.

'Its venom is chemically unique.

"Predatory fish will not eat those fishes because they think they are venomous and going to cause them harm, but this protection provided also allows some of these mimics to get very close to unsuspecting fish to feed on them, by picking on their scales as a micropredator", Casewell adds.

Fang blennies - colorful Pacific region fish - in the Meiacanthus genus may be small, but they pack a very serious bite.

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