Scientists: Some Fish Use Mucus To Repel Mosquitoes

If you find yourself in the deep woods without any insect repellent and hordes of mosquitoes and biting flies are … Continued

If you find yourself in the deep woods without any insect repellent and hordes of mosquitoes and biting flies are closing in, you might try covering yourself with…snot. It apparently works pretty well for some fish.

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From this story on Wired Science:_
If you were to find yourself in the jungle without a mosquito net, slathering yourself in snot might be a good alternative. It works for fish: Scientists have discovered that some coral reef fish protect themselves from biting isopods, a marine equivalent of mosquitoes, by covering themselves in mucus before going to sleep at night. Researchers had speculated that the reason certain parrot fish and wrasses envelop themselves each night with a big blob of mucus might be to protect against settling silt or to deter hungry predators such as moray eels._ But definitive experiments were lacking.

_Now scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia have done the dirty work. The team placed parrot fish in plastic tubs and after midnight, when all the fish had made their mucus cocoons, the researchers gently scraped off the cocoons from half the fishes. Then the team introduced tiny parasitic isopods — blood-sucking crustaceans that are taxonomically closer to lice than to mosquitoes — into the tubs.

Tallying each fish’s blood-engorged parasites showed that the mucus acts as a slimy sea version of bug netting: 94 percent of fish without cocoons had bites, versus 10 percent of fish with intact cocoons. The cocoon-challenged fish also had far more bites on average than their counterparts, the researchers report in a paper to appear in Biology Letters._

Fascinating, in a creepy, slimy sort of way. But I think I’ll take my chances with the bugs…