Venom of Tiny Fish Could Lead to New Pain Treatments

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While the would-be predator is dazed and confused, the blenny is able to swim away to safety.

Whether or not there's pain involved a fang blenny bite - aside from, you know, getting bitten - is hard for researchers to say. Another surprising evidence they got is that fang blenny fangs evolved before the venom. The proteomic analysis found that the components were a neuropeptide that occurs in cone snail venom, a lipase that resembles one found in scorpions, and an opioid peptide. Whether the venom causes pain to the predator fish is unclear, but researchers found that it doesn't cause pain when injected into lab mice.

They sneak around and "carve out chunks of larger fish unsuspectingly" says Bryan Fry, an associate professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, "It's a really really uncool way to do it".

Bryan Fry, from the University of Queensland, explained that fish with venomous spines on their bodies "produce immediate and blinding pain".

Fish venom has been understudied for most of the time. 'Sting'ray sounds so benign. On his part, Losey, who received two bites on the hips during his study, likened them to "a mild bee sting" (note: your mileage might vary) with the puncture wounds becoming inflamed after bleeding freely "for about 10 minutes".

The special venom possessed by the fang blenny is something that allows it to escape predators and defeat similar-sized fish.

Scientists found that the venom causes no pain.

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Researchers found that the fang blenny, a reef-dwelling fish, administers a bite that is laced with opioids. In a press release, they discuss the labor-intensive process of venom extraction-no easy task given the blennys' small size (about three inches at the longest) and the small amount of venom they shoot from their fangs. In other words, all of the fish have the machinery, and some just happened to evolve venom, too.

This means that we should protect the environment in which the venomous fang blenny lives.

"They're a very different structural class to the painkillers people are familiar with. They would be more likely to drown than win gold", Fry said.

Researchers cited the potentials of a fang blenny-inspired medication in the sports industry. It's a very unusual evolutionary line. But it turns out those fangs can do more than chomp down on food. They make their living by nibbling on the scales and fins of bigger fish.

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 unsafe feature. For other small fish and non-venomous fang bennies, this is reason enough for them to mimic its colors and patterns - and exploit other fishes' fear of the venomous fang blenny.

"All of this mimicry, all of these interactions at the community level, ultimately are stimulated by the venom system that some of these fish have".

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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