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The Fang Blenny: a Pint-Sized Toxicological Terror
One would be unlikely to suspect that the two-inch-long blenny bumbling around the ocean floor is packing one of the most alarming defenses in the ocean kingdom. Irritate a fang blenny as it's prowling the reefs for food, and you could receive a distinctive threat display reminiscent of the Predator movies. If this doesn't deter an inquisitive potential predator, the blenny might bite.
A bite from a two-inch-long tropical fish may not seem like a cause for alarm, but these feisty creatures are packing an additional punch: an unusual, opioid-containing venom that tanks a predator's blood pressure. This venom contains three principal ingredients: an enzyme similar to scorpion venom, a neuroactive component like that of the notorious cone snail, and a heroin-like opioid peptide.
This three-part venom has a forceful effect even in the tiny dosage administered by the diminutive sea creature. Anyone or anything unlucky enough to be envenomated experiences a precipitous 40% drop in blood pressure which in a human would result in immediate dizziness and disorientation. In fish, the purpose of this unusual venom is thought to stun the predator with the aim of immediately relaxing the jaws, thus allowing the fanged blenny to escape.
Aside from the incredible strangeness of this discovery, blenny venom is being investigated for possible medicinal uses based on the painkilling component. The search for effective, addiction-free pain relief is a continual effort in research science, and may have a powerful new data point with this discovery!
Micu, A. (2017). Fanged blenny 'heroin'-like venom could be the next super-painkiller. ZME Science. Retrieved 18 April 2017, from http://www.zmescience.com/medicine/fanged-blenny-painkiller/
Yin, S. (2017). Little Tropical Fish With a Big, Venomous Bite. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 18 April 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/science/fanged-blennies-fish-opioid-venom.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&rref=science
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