According to new research, assorted snails are packed with natural anti-freeze proteins at previously unseen levels that help them survive in sub-zero waters. The Snail fish, commonly known as libris gibbs, is also Distinguished by its bioluminescence, which makes it glow green and red.
Study authors David Gruber and John Sparks, both research Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History In New York City, she was on the scientific Constantine S. Niarchos Expedition in 2019 when they spied on a glowing snail off the coast of East Greenland.
Bioluminescence occurs when animals have the ability to convert blue light into green, red, or yellow light. This trait is incredibly rare in arctic fish, which live in long periods of darkness. So far, the assorted snail is the only known arctic fish to have this glow.
Gruber and Sparks collected a small snail fish that was about 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) long — about the size of a fingernail — compared to an average length of 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) for an adult.
The scientists wanted to learn more about the snail’s biofluorescent properties when they found something else in the fish’s genes: the highest expression levels of anti-freeze proteins ever observed.
“Similar to the way the antifreeze in your car keeps the water in your coolant from freezing in cold temperatures, some animals have developed amazing machines that prevent it from freezing, like antifreeze proteins, which prevent the formation of ice crystals,” said Gruber, one of the researchers. . Associate of the American Museum of Natural History and Distinguished Professor of Biology at Baruch College, City University of New York, in a statement.
“We already knew that this little snailfish, which lives in very cold waters, produces anti-freeze proteins, but we didn’t realize just how full of these proteins they were — and how much effort they put into making these proteins.”
As Arctic waters continue to warm due to the climate crisis, the future of the diverse snail fish, with its remarkable adaptation to the cold, is uncertain. Study co-author John Burns, senior researcher at the Bigelow Oceanographic Laboratory in East Boothbay, Maine, said.
Polar oceans are harsh environments for marine life and only creatures that have adapted to live in freezing temperatures can survive there.
Some types of insects and reptiles can survive if they suffer partial freezing of their body fluids, but Fish can’t. Antifreeze proteins, which are largely produced in the liver, prevent the formation of large ice granules in its cells and body fluids.
Scientists first discovered antifreeze proteins in fish nearly 50 years ago. The researchers traced the proteins to five different gene families.
Snail fish is particularly interesting because it contains two different types of gene families that encode antifreeze proteins: type I and type IV.
“It is possible that the genes encoding type 1 antifreeze proteins are recent additions to the fish genome and may be actively expanding into additional copies,” Burns said. “It’s like catching sophistication in action.”
The fact that scientists have discovered so many genetic details in a young snail fish captures what happens during the fish’s growth and development, Burns said.
“Our view is that in addition to growth, these small fish should also invest significantly in protecting themselves from freezing,” Burns said. “The amount of RNA that fish make to protect against freezing is equal to what they invest in basic cellular machinery, the substance that makes their cells in the first place.”
So far, scientists don’t know if there is a link between bioluminescence and antifreeze proteins.
Burns said rising Arctic temperatures could pose a threat to organisms that have adapted to survive there — meaning that all the energy they put into freeze protection is a wasted effort.
Some scientists predict that if Arctic sea ice continues to decline at its current rate, the Arctic will be ice-free for the next three decades, according to the study authors.
“Arctic seas do not support a great diversity of fish species, and our study hypothesises that as ocean temperatures become increasingly warm, ice-dwelling specialists such as this snailfish may face increased competition from more temperate species that were previously unable to survive in these seas. Northern Highlands.. Sparks, curator of the American Museum of Natural History and professor at the Richard Gilder Graduate School of the Museum, said in a statement.
Understanding more about antifreeze proteins could help scientists translate their findings into biotechnological uses, such as protecting crops from frost or better defining the freezing properties of meat, Burns said.
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