Show Details

Venomous Guppies

March 31, 2017

A little fish fends off attack with a heroin-like toxin.

Transcript

135936 Fang Blenny Bryan Fry

A fang blenny (Bryan Fry)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A minnow that packs a punch. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The brightly colored fang blenny lives in the Great Barrier Reef, and sports two large fangs that give the little fish its name. In the journal Current Biology, University of Queensland venomologist Bryan Fry reports that the teeth deliver a unique venom that’s a painkiller, similar to heroin.

BRYAN FRY (University of Queensland):

So if they’re battling with another fish for territorial rights or the perfect little cave, if the other fish is dizzy and uncoordinated, it’s going to be defeated easier, but also if it’s swimming away and it’s dizzy and uncoordinated, their competitor is more likely to be eaten by something else, therefore permanently removing that competitor.

HIRSHON:

Studying the venom’s unique properties could lead to powerful new compounds for treating pain in humans. Fry points out that discoveries like these show the importance of saving diverse ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon

135935 The fanged fish's heroin-like venom could lead to pain treatments. Bryan Fry

A fang blenny jaw and skull. (Bryan Fry)