Scientists developed a new study about a small tropical fish which appears to have a venomous bite. The colorful creature lives in the coral reefs of the Pacific. What is indeed special it’s the fact that it features large lower canines. If this little fish, which is part of a group named fang blennies, is attacked, then it starts acting very weird. When the predator engulfs such a fish, it will experience a severe tremor of the head.
- Fang blennies, even if they are small, feature a strong pair of canines, having a venomous bite.
- Their venom contains an opioid as strong as heroin or other painkillers.
- The small tropical fish has an excellent defense mechanism.
George Losey, who is a zoologist, has observed this species back in the 1970s in a series of feeding experiments. After engulfing it, the predator would immediately open its gills and jaws, and the small tropical fish would quickly swim out of its mouth without being harmed. On March 30, new research was published in Current Biology, revealing more details about this species’ defense mechanisms.
This fish has a different defense mechanism than other venomous fish. Unlike others which spread the toxic venom through their fins, fang blennies inject their venom through their bite. Moreover, their venom does not seem to produce pain, but it causes a dangerous blood pressure drop which might stun the predator. Matthews Davis, an assistant professor of biology at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, stated that this is an amazing study about the effects of venom in any group of fish.
The study authors developed a very detail study of the venom of fang blennies. They started by imagining the small jaws of this tropical fish collected from the Indian and Pacific Oceans’ area to reveal that not all the members of this species feature venom glands at the base of their canines. Nicholas Casewell, a lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and one of the authors of the study, indicated that only 30 out of 100 blenny species sport such a dangerous feature.
Thus, this suggests that at first, this particular tropical fish evolved to have large teeth and then certain species develop in such a manner that they coupled it with venom. After analyzing the venom, specialists determined that it contains three toxins, namely an opioid as dangerous as heroin, a molecule used in neuron signaling and an enzyme.
Dr. Casewell stated that even if this type of venom was not previously reported in this species, there were others, like snakes and scorpions, which feature the same ingredients. This study will represent the starting point for other similar studies about venom.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia