Why Goldfish are Filled to the Gills with Alcohol

How do goldfish survive freezing winter temperatures? Scientists have discovered a unique way they adapt, and it’s one that puts them over the legal limit.

Though human bodies cannot produce alcohol on their own, surprisingly, goldfish can. This peculiar evolutionary talent, the BBC reports, allows them to survive for months in freezing, airless conditions underneath ice-covered lakes.

How? Goldfish have an extra set of proteins activated during an absence of oxygen. These proteins convert the lactic acid created after food consumption, which would normally kill them because they have no way to get rid of them in an oxygen-absent environment, into alcohol, which can be disbursed through the gills.

The longer goldfish are in freezing and airless conditions, the more alcohol they produce.

“If you measure them in the field the blood alcohol goes up above 50mg per 100 milliliters, which is the drink-drive limit in Scotland and northern European countries,” said Dr. Michael Berenbrink of the University of Liverpool.

If you’re wondering how long it would take a goldfish to expel enough alcohol to produce a drink, yes, scientists have calculated that.

“If you put them in a beer glass and closed them off, it would take 200 days to get it up to 4%,” said Dr. Berenbrink.

It may take a long time for goldfish to produce an alcoholic beverage, but many animals contribute to the alcohol industry in more productive ways. Find out how winemakers are relying on animals for sustainable winemaking.

Published on August 17, 2017
Topics: News

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