Academic journal article The Science Teacher

No Lotion Needed: Many Animals Produce Their Own Sunscreen

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

No Lotion Needed: Many Animals Produce Their Own Sunscreen

Article excerpt

Researchers have discovered why many animal species can spend their whole lives outdoors with no apparent damage from high levels of solar exposure: They make their own sunscreen.

The findings, published in the journal eLife by scientists from Oregon State University (OSU), found that many fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds can naturally produce a compound called gadusol, which among other biologic activities provides protection from the ultraviolet, or sun-burning, component of sunlight.

The researchers also believe that this ability may have been obtained through some prehistoric, natural, genetic engineering.

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The gene that provides the capability to produce gadusol is remarkably similar to one found in algae, which may have transferred it to vertebrate animals. And because it's so valuable, it has been retained and passed along for hundreds of millions of years of animal evolution.

"Humans and mammals don't have the ability to make this compound, but we've found that many other animal species do," says Taifo Mahmud, a professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy and lead author on the research.

The genetic pathway that allows gadusol production is found in animals ranging from rainbow trout to the American alligator, green sea turtle, and a farmyard chicken.

"The ability to make gadusol, which was first discovered in fish eggs, clearly has some evolutionary value to be found in so many species," Mahmud says. …

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