Odd fish delivers heroin-like bite

Fang blenny skull

The fish - sometimes called poison-fang blennies or sabre-tooth blennies - are also popular as ornamental tropical aquarium fish.

This made the fang blenny a curiosity; the scientists knew it to be venomous, but set out to understand how and why its bite was painless.

Scientists have found that fang blennies disable their opponents by injecting heroin-like venom into them. Generally speaking, when it comes to fish with venomous spines or other animals that are venomous, the bites of the animals or getting poked by their spines is described as being extremely painful.

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

Co-author Dr Nicholas Casewell of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said another surprise from the study was the evidence suggesting that fang blenny fangs evolved before the species' venom.

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All these researchers teamed up and developed a study in which deals with the analysis of venomous fang blenny fish.

Losing the Great Barer Reef could lead to the extinction of creatures like blennies and even have anadverse impact on new painkiller development, according to Fry. When they studied the jaws of venom-producing blennies, they confirmed a longstanding hypothesis that not all blennies have glands that produce venom. The fish were then returned to the tanks and the swabs were suspended in a solution to draw out the venom.

He added: "The venom causes the bitten fish to become slower in movement and dizzy by acting on their opioid receptors". "The venom causes a drop in blood pressure probably from the presence of these peptides".

The first step was to get some venom from the fangblenny fangs.

"Dizziness brought about by low blood pressure is a very common side effect for any kind of opioid".

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As Steph Yin reports for The New York Times, researchers have discovered that their teeth deliver a three-pronged wallop: venom that has an opioid-like effect inside would-be predators.

When a bigger fish eats a blenny, the tiny fish bites the predator's gums. This study will represent the starting point for other similar studies about venom.

Fry: The venom is absolutely unique; we have never seen anything like it. These lovely and territorial fish are found on Australia's Great Barrier Reef and other tropical locations. He also thinks 15 to 20 species of fish have evolved to look like venomous fangblennies to protect themselves from predators.

In the biodiverse realm of coral reefs, other species also "mimic" the fang blenny - developing similar striped patterns and bright colours that may fool predators into thinking that they too are opioid-laced.

This wouldn't be possible without protecting its habitat: Australia's world-famous Great Barrier Reef, which is now dying because of the effects of climate change.

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Prof Fry said the fang blenny was an "excellent example" of why nature and unique habitats must be protected, particularly the Great Barrier Reef.


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