A coral reef fish called fang blennies, stuns and disables predators with a heroin or morphine-like venom, and that has researchers from the University of Queensland hoping their discovery may lead to the development of new pain medicines in the future.
Associate Professor Bryan Fry, who is a co-author to the study published in Current Biology said, “The venomous fang blenny was found in the Pacific region, including on the Great Barrier Reef,” in a media release.
“The fish injects other fish with opioid peptides that act like heroin or morphine, inhibiting pain rather than causing it,” he said.
“Its venom is chemically unique. The venom causes the bitten fish to become slower in movement and dizzy by acting on their opioid receptors. To put that into human terms, opioid peptides would be the last thing an elite Olympic swimmer would use as performance-enhancing substances. They would be more likely to drown than win gold.”
Fang blennies, also known as poison-fang blennies or sabre-tooth blennies, of the genus Meiacanthus, are popular as ornamental tropical aquarium fish, the release stated.
“Fang blennies are the most interesting fish I’ve ever studied and have one of the most intriguing venoms of them all,” Fry continued.
“These fish are fascinating in their behavior. They fearlessly take on potential predators while also intensively fighting for space with similar sized fish. Their secret weapons are two large grooved teeth on the lower jaw that are linked to venom glands.”
The unique venom allows the fang blenny to more easily escape predators or defeat competitors.
“This study is an excellent example of why we need to protect nature,” he said. “If we lose the Great Barrier Reef, we will lose animals like the fang blenny and its unique venom that could be the source of the next blockbuster pain-killing drug.”