A group of researchers at the Oregon State University pondered on a fairly simple question that led to the publishing of a detailed study in a bid to find the answer. The study by the team of researchers, focused on why animals who are exposed to the sun for several hours in a day on end do not get sunburned. Animals with fur, for instance, are able to get some protection from the sun. But in the case of animals such as fish that chiefly live in shallow water and other amphibians such as toads, exposure to sun is direct and prolonged. Although water absorbs some level of ultraviolet rays, a fair volume of radiation that is capable of causing sunburn is able to travel a few feet beyond the surface of water.
The new research by the team, which was published in a journal called eLife, found that several animals such as fish, reptiles, amphibians and birds carry the ability to produce a special compound known as gadusol. This compound renders animals the ability to protect themselves from harmful rays of the sun that cause sunburn.
However, the study overturns a common belief that the fraternity has held thus far: That animals derived gadusol only via the consumption of certain types of algae and bacteria. But the study’s lead author, Taifo Mahmud, says that animals’ ability to produce gadusol was discovered for the first time in fish eggs. This means that it has some evolutionary value considering the fact that it is found in such a large variety of species.
In a press release, Mahmud said that mammals (including humans) do not have the ability to produce gadusol. But the researchers have found a range of species that do; this could hold the key to creating sunscreen that’s made of entirely animal-derived ingredients instead of the chemical-concentrated formulas that we currently use.
The compound provides UV-B protection as well as functioning as an antioxidant when stimulated by stress. Furthermore, it helps in embryonic development as well.
Going a step further, the researchers also discovered that they could produce gadusol naturally in large quantities with the use of yeast. The sunscreen produced thus could even be edible.