That is a Striped Blenny, a popular aquarium fish. Also known as a Fang Blenny. There are a number of different types, and they have exploded into a different kind of popularity, outside of aquarist circles. Blennies defend themselves with a venomous bite. The venom doesn’t kill, but it does get the potential predator woozed out on opiones, so the Blenny can make a quick get away. The venom has intrigued medical researchers, particularly those who want to come up with a painkiller which actually works, and doesn’t have such heavy addiction potential. Sounds good so far, right? There’s something of a problem though – the natural home of Blennies is The Great Barrier Reef, which is dying an all too rapid death from bleaching. This is a reminder of just how little we actually know of our planet, or of all the potential benefits to ourselves are out there, right now, but we’re very busy killing off so many different types of habitats, we are killing ourselves.
So the fang blenny’s potential isn’t just blue-sky thinking; there’s a very real and somewhat straight path for studying this opioid to make it useable as a pharmaceutical.
The number one hurdle is the health of the Great Barrier Reef, where these fish live. There’s an immense amount of unknown diversity in ecosystems around the world disappearing at unprecedented rates due to climate change, and the GBR is fragile among these. Current policies of both the Australian and American governments don’t bode well for slowing climate change and preserving nature to its full potential to help us.
Here’s the key thing: a better opioid is worth tens of billions of dollars. The best source of inspiration for new pharmaceuticals is nature, and that’s what we are destroying for a few million or even hundred million in the short term.
The reality is that the economic argument for conservation vastly outweighs the economic argument for destruction.The fang benny populations are declining as the reef gets bleached and destroyed, and with it goes millions of years of perfecting potentially life-savings drugs for our use.
Full story here.