Thursday, 7 July 2016

Researchers tally huge number of venomous fishes, tout potential for medical therapies

Date: July 5, 2016
Source: University of Kansas

Upon hearing the word "venom," most people probably think of a snake's fang.

But the ability to produce and inject toxins into another animal is so useful, it has evolved multiple times in creatures ranging from jellyfishes to spiders, shrews to the male platypus.

Now, a paper appearing this week in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology catalogs instances of venomous aquatic life, for the first time showing that venom has evolved 18 separate times in fresh and saltwater fishes.

Among the paper's other findings:
In contrast to squamates like lizards and snakes, very few fishes have evolved venomous fangs or teeth
The predominant function for venom in fishes is defense rather than offense
Venom in freshwater is dominated by catfishes, as opposed to marine environments where it is widespread across many groups
It is surprising how comparatively common venom is in deep-sea sharks (30 percent of venomous sharks) compared to deep-sea bony fishes (5 percent of venomous bony fishes)

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