Fish May be the Greatest Athletes on the Planet

First Posted: Oct 09, 2015 02:52 PM EDT

Fish may just be the greatest athletes on our planet. Scientists have taken a closer look at how fish swim, and have found that these animals are far more effective at delivering oxygen throughout their body than almost any other animal, giving them the athletic edge over other species.

"Fish exploit a mechanism that is up to 50-times more effective in releasing oxygen to their tissues than that found in humans," said Jodie Rummer, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This is because their hemoglobin, the protein in blood that transports oxygen, is more sensitive to changes in pH than ours and more than the hemoglobins in other animals."

Having this particular hemoglobin is particularly important during times of stress. It allows them to escape predators, and allows them to survive in water that's low in oxygen. In fact, the fish can double or even triple oxygen delivery to their tissues during these critical times.

Now, researchers have more thoroughly investigated this system in rainbow trout. They first discovered and tested this mechanism by monitoring muscle oxygen levels in real-time in trout. Then, the researchers compared the results with medical studies on humans.

"This information tells us how fish have adapted this very important process of getting oxygen and delivering it to where it needs to be so that they can live in all kinds of conditions, warm or cold water, and water with high or low oxygen levels," said Rummer.

This particular trait may be particularly important to athletic species, such as long distance swimming salmon or fast swimming tuna.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.

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