Fang blennies wield a painless venom with a unusual history

Fang blenny

Fang blennies wield a painless venom with a unusual history

The fierce-looking fang blenny, also known as the poison-fang blenny or the sabre-tooth blenny, fends off predators and competitors by injecting them with a heroin-like substance that impairs them rather than kills them.

While the study could not rule out the bite caused pain in fish, it seemed plausible the neuropeptide and opioid components may cause a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Live Science noted that the fang blenny venom would not be very painful, but it will be unpleasant enough, at least for fish predators. When they injected the venom into mouse, the researchers noticed that the rodents did not show any signs of pain. Generally speaking, when it comes to fish with venomous spines or other animals that are venomous, the bites of the animals or getting poked by their spines is described as being extremely painful. In predator fish like grouper, though, the venom caused a more visceral response (likely due to the fact that fish are much smaller).

Another main scientist involved with the study of the fish, Dr. Nicholas Casewell, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said when a sting or bite is painful, it is used as a defense mechanism.

Fang blennies measure only a few centimeters in length and are brightly colored.

That's because the heroin-like poison emitted by the blenny may lead to new and better painkillers.

If swallowed, this fish is known to make its predators experience a "violent quivering of the head", which forces its predator to open its jaws and gills, allowing that the blenny to escape, unscathed. After putting the angry blenny back in its tank, they would extract the venom from the swab.

"The venom causes the bitten fish to become slower in movement and dizzy by acting on their [nerve cells'] opioid receptors", he explained in a university news release. Although used for defence, the venom "inhibits pain rather than causing it".


Blenny fish have always been notable for their big teeth-choppers that give their mouths a demented kind of grin. "We expected that.it's a defensive venom, so it's going to hurt like every other defensive venom", he adds.

Fry: The venom is absolutely unique; we have never seen anything like it.

Ouch. Fangblennies have two large hollow fangs that deliver venom. Only about 30 out of 100 species of fang blennies are venomous.

The potentially useful toxin is found in the venomous fang blenny. He shared that if the world loses the Great Barrier Reef, animals like the fang blenny and their unique venom could be gone forever.

In the biodiverse realm of coral reefs, other species also "mimic" the fang blenny - developing similar striped patterns and bright colours that may fool predators into thinking that they too are opioid-laced.

"They're right in the epicentre of the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef", said Fry.

Fry said that the venom could be the source of the next blockbuster painkiller, which necessitates the protection of these creatures' marine habitat.

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