Goldfish survive icy waters with alcohol

Barsaba Taglieri
Agosto 12, 2017

Ever wondered why your goldfish in the aquarium seems less inhibited than the other fish?

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.

"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. This stops them from poisoning themselves, and goes on to produce a little bit of alcohol, which perhaps makes them a tiny bit tipsy as well.

A new study led by Catherine Fagernes of the University of Oslo in Norway will change your perspective in a hurry, because that hearty little fish you forgot to feed for days at a time has perfected the art of survival in a way you could never have guessed.

"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", said Dr Michael Berenbrink, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of Liverpool.

Researchers measured the blood alcohol limits of domestic goldfish in a lab and found they could also reach levels of around 50 mg per 100 ml.

For those of you reading this after a boozy night on the town be warned - putting your goldfish in the freezer and then sucking it isn't going to get you more drunk, so don't try it. ®.

The team has shown that muscles of goldfish and crucian carp contain not just one, but two sets of proteins normally used to channel carbohydrates towards their breakdown within a cell's mitochondria - a key step for energy production.

While one set of those proteins is very similar to what other species of vertebrate possess, the second set is uniquely activated by the absence of oxygen.

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