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Friday, May 21, 2010

Creature Feature: Zebrafish...That GLOW?!




Just when you thought this blog was limited to natural stuff, along come these little fishies. If you know anything about GloFish, you know that they are genetically-engineered zebra danios, and are probably wondering why the hell these little Frankenfish are on a blog about the strange world around you.

Well, they certainly push the boundaries of one's imagination, do they not? Imagine putting these genes into other fish such as bettas, koi, goldfish, or angelfish. Better yet, even though the pigmentation rules are slightly different, wouldn't a glow-in-the-dark snake be sweet? The possibilities of this technology are limitless! (For those curious, science has already given us glowing mammals, but they are not available as pets.)
Pinky smash! Pinky fuel sweet rave parties with glowing body!


The neat part about GloFish is that, like yesterday's albino retic, they were spliced and bred primarily for aesthetics. Although the science was originally used to track pollutants, GloFish are now bred in large numbers and sold as pets. You will see a lot of stuff about glow-splicing being used for science, but how much do you want to bet that these people really just want to make things glow in the dark? Don't be shy; we can all relate!

For those of you thinking something along the lines of, "Oh, those silly Americans! When will they learn that freaks like these will harm the planet?" bear in mind that many, if not all, genetic experiments like GloFish are done in Asia. Americans are just one of the few nations selling them.

Also, look at how bright these things are! There is no way they could survive in the wild. If white tigers and albino animals have it hard, creatures that glow in the dark would have it doubly so. Invasive species worries aside, how could something naturally bioluminescent survive?

There are actually a few examples. Many creatures of the deepsea abyss possess some form of bioluminescence; the most widely-known is, of course, the anglerfish. The proteins used in GloFish and many other such creations use GFP (green fluorescence protein), which comes from the crystal jellyfish (Aequoria victoria and co.), or similar proteins from other sea-bound cnidarians.

Fireflies are a good land-based example; their enzyme, luciferase (not related to Satan; know your Latin!) has been used to make a tobacco plant glow in the dark. Nearly all species of adult scorpion also glow under blacklight, making that purple bulb lighting up your psychedelic mushroom poster a valuable scorpion detector. Nobody really knows why they glow; thus far, the best explanation is some sort of natural sunblock left over from when scorpions were diurnal.

Or maybe Mother Nature was TRIPPIN' when designing scorpions. Who knows?

Eight legs, crablike pincers, a deadly sting...just for good measure, let's make it glow in the dark.

Drug trippers, take heed: Your visions of purple giraffes, neon snakes, and glowing koi will soon become reality...or would if GloFish were not copyrighted. Damn the big corporations for crushing my dreams!

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