Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do fish make sunscreen?” you ask? Good question. Timely too. (Besides, it ‘s better than answering certain questions about why certain parts of the body sometimes smell like fish; that’s for sure.)
Regular readers might recall reading about melanin in a much earlier edition of this series. Melanin, for those who missed it, is a dark pigment that helps us protect our skin from too much sun.
yes, we use sunscreen, too, of course. As a matter of fact, people are not the only ones who use sunscreen. Even algae, bacteria and fungi generate chemicals to deal with potentially dangerous UV rays.
Scott Hensley of MTPR has also researched the subject recently and can confirm that one of the chemicals is an antioxidant called gadusol. Scientists have found it in fish and even fish eggs. So why do some fish make sunscreen? They need protection from the sun too.
Researchers at Oregon State University discovered that zebra fish, which are frequently used for studies, make their own gadusol. (Previously, folks thought that fish got it from their diet.)
A medicinal chemist at Oregon State’s pharmacy school, Taifo Mahmud, states that it’s still uncertain as to why the fish make sunscreen other than for “UV protection.” Hensley confirms it could have other uses since “gadusol is produced in significant quantities during the development of embryos.”
One thing is certain thanks to the research: it’s genetic. The gadusol-producing genes–called EEVS and MT-Ox originate from an” ancestor hundreds of millions of years ago” that the zebra fish retained.
There you have it. (Oh! And be happy yours truly avoided using a lot of fishy puns just for the halibut, mmmkay?)
Why do some fish make their own sunscreen? Now you know.
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