Salmon Has Natural Night Vision Goggles, Study Finds

Posted: Nov 8 2015, 8:23am CST | by , Updated: Nov 9 2015, 9:58pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Salmons have Natural Night Vision Goggles, Study Finds
This graphic illustrates how the Cyp27c1 enzyme supercharges the ability of freshwater fish and amphibians to see red and infrared light, J. Corbo Laboratory

Salmons and other freshwater fishes can peer into murky water and have the ability to see red and infrared light.

Salmons and other freshwater fishes and amphibians have evolved a unique ability to see and swim through the murkier waters of streams, ponds and lakes.

The freshwater is considerably different from the water in the open ocean. The water in the ocean looks blue-green while light environment in streams and ponds appears red after filtering out mud, algae and other substances.

Despite that, when salmons migrate from marine to freshwaters for spawning, they can move through with remarkable ease. Now scientists have found the technique which helps them navigate murky water.

"We've discovered an enzyme that switches the visual systems of some fish and amphibians and supercharges their ability to see infrared light," said Joseph Corbo, associate professor of pathology and immunology and lead author of the study. "For example, when salmon migrate from the ocean to inland streams, they turn on this enzyme, activating a chemical reaction that shifts the visual system, helping the fish peer more deeply into murky water."

The enzyme, called Cyp27c1, is closely linked to vitamin A, an organic compound which is known for boosting eye vision. The enzyme switches vitamin A to vitamin B and enables salmons to see red and infrared light, which is impossible to see by human eye.

The findings hold promise for further research in biomedical research especially in optogentics. Optogentics is a relatively new field which uses light to control cells in neurons. Though the application of this technique is limited to just visible light, it can be expanded and used for peering deeper into brain if scientists are able to incorporate the newly discovered enzyme. 

Other freshwater fishes and amphibians like zebrafish and bullfrogs can also produce this enzyme and peer into murky water. In fact, zebrafish follow infrared light if put in a dark aquarium. 

Other fishes with disabled copies of the gene Cyp27c1 cannot move like zebrafish in the dark. Humans too lack the ability to adapt to dark conditions. That is why, they use night vision goggles to navigate in dark. Many previous researchers indicate that people who consume vitamin A2 have an enhanced ability to detect red and infrared light but many scientists does not recommend it as of right now.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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