Researchers have found a blind cavefish that can climb waterfalls. No, I am not making this up. The New Jersey Institute of Technology featured this story.
This research is reported in a March 24 Nature Scientific Reports article, “Tetrapod-like pelvic girdle in a walking cavefish,” by Brooke Flammang, Daphne Soares, Julie Markiewicz and Apinun Suvarnaraksha. Flammang and Soares, assistant professors in the NJIT Department of Biological Sciences, were assisted with the research by Markiewicz, an NJIT post-baccalaureate research volunteer in the Flammang lab at the university. Investigator Suvarnaraksha is a member of the Faculty of Fisheries Technology and Aquatic Resources of Maejo University in Thailand. The full text of their article is available at www.nature.com/articles/srep23711.
Flammang studies fish locomotion at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, so she’s used to seeing fish moving on land. She wasn’t surprised to see one that could push itself over rocks and through water gushing like a fire hose. But other “walking” fish hop forward by leaning on their pectoral fins like a pair of crutches, or flex and shimmy to wriggle over surfaces. This one was taking steps, moving one of its front fins in time with the back fin on the other side of its body, alternating in a diagonal two-step like a salamander. Flammang was incredulous. “I was like, ‘Fish can’t do that,’” she says. “That’s ridiculous.”
Inspired by the blind cave fish, researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) [新加坡-麻省理工学院科研中] have developed Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) flow sensor so tiny and sensitive that it can be implanted into the IV or intravenous set-up, to aid in regulating the velocity of the fluid flow with minimal intervention by the nurses, thereby reducing their workload while increasing their productivity by 30%; and significantly decreasing the complications of drug infusion via IV therapy. These sensors can also be incorporated into marine underwater robots, lending them sensitivities to wakes, akin to the blind cave fish itself, so that the robots can manoeuvre in a highly energy-efficient manner.
In my underground wanderings I have on one occasion stumbled upon what we believed to be hydrosulfuric acid. It is pretty nasty stuff. The room, deep in a mine, was eerily decorated with odd formations and crystalline growths, and had pools of blood red liquid on the floor. We discovered several dead bats and decided to get out of there, though our gas detector was not reading anything out of the ordinary.
A 10 year study has just discovered some answers about how organisms can live in these harsh conditions. For example, the Atlantic Molly.
The tiny Atlantic molly can live in small puddles of toxic or nontoxic water. Using genomic tools, the researchers compared gene expression of the mollies living in toxic hydrogen sulfide environments with those mollies living in nontoxic environments just a few yards away.
They found that the fish have a two-pronged approach to survival: They become inert to the toxins that enter the body and they are able to detoxify hydrogen sulfide more efficiently.
Hydrogen sulfide shuts down energy production in cells by interfering with specific proteins. The fish combat this challenge by using anaerobic metabolism, which is an alternative — although much less efficient — way to produce energy and does not involve oxygen.
The scientists found that about 170 of the fish’s 35,000 or so genes were turned on, or upregulated, to detoxify and remove the hydrogen sulfide. The poison invades the fishes’ bodies, but their changed proteins help the fish break down the hydrogen sulfide into nontoxic forms and excrete it.