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Opah, the world’s first fully warm-blooded fish species, discovered by researchers

The Opah fish has developed an internal heat exchange system within its gills to conserve the warmth and it raises its temperature by flapping its fins.

May 16, 2015 16:16 IST
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered the world’s first fully warm-blooded fish species named Opah. These fishes are found in the deep waters off the US, Australia and several other countries.

The finding of the researchers was published on 15 May 2015 in the journal Science.

How the Opah conserves its warmth?

According to the finding, the Opah fish has developed an internal heat exchange system within its gills to conserve the warmth and it raises its temperature by flapping its fins.

This adaptation means warm blood that leaves the opah’s body core helps heat cold blood returning from the surface of the gills where it absorbs oxygen, maintaining an average body temperature of about 4 degree Celsius to 5 degree Celsius.

This system is more akin to a car radiator and is similar to that used by mammals and birds, which are known as endotherms for their ability to maintain body temperature independent of the environment.

While tuna and some sharks can warm certain parts of their bodies, such as their brains and eyes, fish are generally classed among cold-blooded animals, known as ectotherms.

Characteristics of Opah fish

• Opahs are more effective predators by virtue of being a warm-blooded species.
• It swims faster, reacts more quickly and sees more sharply than the other marine life
• It can dwell 50 meter to 400 meter underwater.
• It can weigh up to 90kg and are oval-shaped roughly the size of a car tyre.
• It has fatty deposits around the gills, heart and muscle tissue in order to provide insulation from the cold water.

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