How fish won the oxygen war

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A missing link in the story of how the fishes triumphed over toxic oceans and past climate changes has been revealed by an international team of scientists.


The key to the evolutionary success of fish – and their possible survival in future – may lie with a molecule that they ultimately bequeathed to humans: hemoglobin, the precious carrier of oxygen into our brain, heart, muscles and other organs.

In a paper in the latest edition of the journal Science, Dr Jodie Rummer of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and colleagues from the University of British Columbia report a groundbreaking discovery about how fish manage to survive in hostile water conditions.

“Four hundred million years ago the oceans were not what they are today. They were low in oxygen, high in CO2 and acidic,” says Dr Rummer. “Yet the fishes not only survived in these unpromising circumstances, they managed to thrive. Their secret weapon was a system for unloading huge amounts of oxygen from the hemoglobin in their blood, whenever the going got really tough. 

“Hemoglobin in the blood takes up oxygen in the gills of fish and the lungs of humans. It then carries it round the body to the heart, muscles and organs until it encounters tissues that are highly active and producing a lot of CO2.” “The acid is a signal to the hemoglobin to unload as much of its oxygen as possible into the tissues,” she explains.

Written By: SciNews
continue to source article at scinews.com.au

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  1. The fish system is many times more efficient than the one inherited by humans.

    Fish hemoglobin is just a slightly different molecule from ours? Perhaps a minor genetic modification could give us world class athlete blood transport.

    Its foggy but I recall seeing some sort of system that let you breath under water, where your lungs exctacted the oxygen from the liquid. I don’t recall the swimming fluid was special or your blood was special.

    Some molluscs use copper instead of iron is their oxygen transporter molecule, hemocyanin, resulting in green blood.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      The fish system is many times more efficient than the one inherited by humans.

      Fish hemoglobin is just a slightly different molecule from ours? Perhaps a minor genetic modification could give us world class athlete blood transport.

      Its foggy but I recall seeing some sort of system that let you bre…

      What metal do the English upper class use to get blue blood?

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      Its foggy but I recall seeing some sort of system that let you breath under water, where your lungs exctacted the oxygen from the liquid. I don’t recall the swimming fluid was special or your blood was special.

      Even if you could get past the (necessary) protective reflexes, you couldn’t breathe water: there’s not enough oxygen and it is much too viscous a fluid.

      Steve

  2. are these hands or fins
    or strange looking feet
    am i a fish with scales
    or made out of meat
    jeez..its been.. a few million years
    blood..sweat.. a few billion fears
    wriggling and feeding
    but feeding on what
    anything smaller
    or have you forgot
    struggling but thriving
    this is our lot
    squirming and growing
    into something i’m not
    evolution old chap
    is ever so grand
    i’ll discuss it some more
    when i make it to land

  3. @ Roedy and Agrajag:
    At first I thought you were merely thinking of The Abyss by James Cameron, where one of the characters using a liquid breathing technology to dive to the bottom of the sea and contact some alien beings. Or perhaps the Matrix. However after a cursory glance at wikipedia, it appears liquid breathing is an actual technology being researched.
    It could have benificial uses for people with pulmonary or cardiac trauma, and could be used for deep sea diving (where Cameron got the idea no doubt) or space travel.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_breathing

    • In reply to #5 by Seraphor:

      The liquid breathing was originally proposed as a method of surviving high G forces in flight and space travel. Gerry Anderson used it as a plot device in the ’70′s TV series “UFO”. Not sure if the diving concept came at the same time or later.

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