Researchers from the University of Oslo and the University of Liverpool have figured out how goldfish survive on alcohol. They produce the alcohol as a survival mechanism, in order to stay alive when trapped in frozen lakes or other icy surfaces.
How the process works
Most vertebrates are unable to survive more than a couple of minutes without oxygen. This is not the case for the crucian carp and goldfish. They manage to survive in oxygen free-water. They produce alcohol by converting their anaerobically produced lactic acid into ethanol. The ethanol diffuses across their gills and from there into the surrounding water.
The goldfish have a set of proteins with is activated when there is no oxygen left. An evolutionary physiologist, Dr, Michael Berenbrink from the University of Liverpool explained that the alcohol inside the goldfish’s blood is higher sometimes than the drink-drive limit during wintertime.
The carp has an alcohol concentration higher than 50mg per 100 milliliters sometimes during the winter periods when lakes and ponds are frozen.
The researchers explain
The lead author of the research from the University of Oslo, Dr. Cathrine Elisabeth Fagernes, explains that the time carp fish last without oxygen is of several months. The carp’s original habitat, northeastern Europe, offers cold winters. The ethanol production makes the carp and goldfish the only species able to survive in that harsh environment. The goldfish is a relative of the carp. This skill also helps the carp protect itself from its natural depredators. They migrate to warmer waters, while the carp stays in the same freezing lakes, rivers or ponds.
Since they are relatives, the goldfish has the same ability, making it the most resilient pet a human could have. It is easy to maintain and very resistant.