Goldfish go over the drink-drive limit to survive under ice

Oceane Deschanel
Agosto 12, 2017

European researchers have identified the mysterious mechanism that allows goldfish to produce alcohol in order to survive without oxygen during frigid winters beneath frozen lakes.

Goldfish can not survive without oxygen due to the alcohol.

"During their time in oxygen-free water in ice-covered ponds, which can last for several months in their northern European habitat, blood alcohol concentrations in crucian carp can reach more than 50 mg per 100 milliliters, which is above the drink drive limit in these countries", said Dr Michael Berenbrink, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, on Friday.

Research led by the University of Liverpool and Oslo found that the crucian carp produce 50 to 100 mg alcohol per millilitre in their blood.

Possibly dating back to a mutation 8m years ago, the process was found in the muscles of goldfish and crucian carp, which contain two sets of the proteins normally used to channel carbohydrates towards their breakdown for energy production in a cell's mitochondria.

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Michale Berenbrink, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of Liverpool told MailOnline that this would put them above legal drink drive limit in most countries.

'However, this is still a much better situation than filling up with lactic acid, which is the metabolic end product for other vertebrates, including humans, when devoid of oxygen'.

In trying to explain the possibly evolutionary objective of the unique trait, lead author of the paper Dr Cathrine Elisabeth Fagernes said: "The ethanol production allows the crucian carp to be the only fish species surviving and exploiting these harsh environments, thereby avoiding competition and escaping predation by other fish species with which they normally interact in better-oxygenated waters". This allows them to remain alive in conditions that would claim the lives of most other species of fish.

"It's no wonder then that the crucian carp's cousin the goldfish is arguably one of the most resilient pets under human care", Fagernes said.

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