Scientists discover gene mutations allow fish to generate electricity

(ORDO NEWS) — The journal Science Advances published an article describing a study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, whose experts found that electric fish (stingray, eel) can generate electricity thanks to a small change in one of the genes that all fish have.

“Electric fish produce their species electrical discharges with their electrical organs using specialized electrosensory cells that have evolved from lateral line hair cells,” the scientists said.

As the researchers found, all fish have a duplicated gene that produces special current-conducting proteins (sodium channels) that cause muscles to contract.

In electric fish, this gene is active in other cells, resulting in an organ that generates electrical discharges.

It was found that the part of the gene that regulates the formation of sodium channels in other fish species is changed or absent in stingrays and eels.

Scientists know more than 300 species of electric fish. They may use their abilities for defense or hunting purposes, or for signaling. In river fish, electrical discharges tend to be stronger, since fresh water is less conductive.


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