Tags: fish | opah | warm | west coast | scientists

Scientists Discover First Known Warm-Blooded Fish

By    |   Thursday, 14 May 2015 09:50 PM

Scientists have discovered the world's first warm-blooded fish, a 100-pound animal roughly the size and shape of a car tire.

According to new research by NOAA Fisheries, the opah, also known as the moonfish, lives in many of the world's oceans at several hundred feet below the surface.

The research claims the fish develops heat as it swims rapidly through the water, and uses an intricate system of blood vessels to warm its body. Scientists originally thought it was a slow-moving fish because of its size and because it is found at depths up to 1,300 feet, but a discovery in its gills told another story.

The opah's gills contain blood vessels carrying warm blood that wrap around vessels containing cold blood, which helps keep it warm in the cold temperatures. Known as "counter-current heat exchange," this system allows the fish to swim faster and capture prey it might not otherwise be able to get.

"There has never been anything like this seen in a fish's gills before," said biologist Nicholas Wegner, the lead author of a paper detailing the findings. "This is a cool innovation by these animals that gives them a competitive edge. The concept of counter-current heat exchange was invented in fish long before we thought of it."

Researchers concluded that opah caught off the West Coast of the United States had a body temperature warmer than the water surrounding them, and that stayed true as the fish dove to deeper depths.

The opah, according to the NOAA Fisheries report, is the first known fish that is able to keep its entire body warmer than its environment, giving it a mammal-like characteristic.

Researchers found fatty tissue surrounding the opal's gills, heart, and muscles that help regulate its temperature in the cold waters.

"Nature has a way of surprising us with clever strategies where you least expect them," Wegner said. "It's hard to stay warm when you're surrounded by cold water but the opah has figured it out."

Another study, meanwhile, claimed up to 60 percent of shrimp sold in the U.S. may be tainted with MRSA, E. coli, and other harmful bacteria. With the majority of shrimp available in the U.S. coming from farms, researchers discovered a link between poor farming conditions and bacteria levels.

"Bacteria and algae can begin to grow and disease can set in, prompting farmers to use drugs and other chemicals that can remain on the shrimp and seep into the surrounding environment," said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Scientists also recently found out that at least one type of fish produces its own version of sunscreen to help protect it from the sun when it swims near the surface.

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Scientists have discovered the world's first warm-blooded fish, a 100-pound animal roughly the size and shape of a car tire.
fish, opah, warm, west coast, scientists
Thursday, 14 May 2015 09:50 PM
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