Wild Fact #15 – A Tasty Treat – Japanese Freshwater Eel

Glow in the Dark Eel

Photo by RIKEN BRAIN SCIENCE INSTITUTE

 

Have you ever eaten an animal that can glow in the dark?

I will give you a hint, if you are a fan of sushi, you have probably tried the delicious Japanese Freshwater Eel, also known as Unagi on most menus. Believe it or not, researchers have discovered that this tasty morsel contains a fluorescent protein that shines bright green when you place them under a blue light. We will get into the purpose of this neon green protein in a second but first, let’s learn a little more about the Japanese Freshwater Eel.

Cool Facts About the Japanese Freshwater Eel (Unagi)

  • Although this eel spawns in the ocean they spend a good portion of their lie hanging out in freshwater systems – how about that, they get the best of both worlds
  • The Japanese Freshwater Eel is not the flashiest eel in the sea with their plain greyish-green colouring. You would think they are a rather boring eel, until you check out their proteins with a blue light.
  • Besides Japan, this eel can also be found hanging around Taiwan, China, Korea and the Northern Philippines

Glows in the Dark AND Saves Lives?!?

Okay, so what about this fluorescent green protein? How is it formed? What does it do? These are all excellent questions so lets start with the how this protein is designed. This unique protein and believe me, it is incredibly unique, is created in the muscle fibres of the eel. Researchers says this protein is unlike any other glow in the dark protein found in animals such as Jellyfish, microbes and corals. It has a lot of unique properties including the ability to help save human lives. You can find more on how the Unagi is saving lives by checking out the article at The-Scientist.com.

Japanese Eel

Photo by Opencage (Wikipedia)

The Traveling Eel

Great, so it is incredibly unique and only found in the Japanese Freshwater Eel. That is awesome but why do they need it? Interestingly enough, the eels didn’t reveal their secret when we first asked them, however, we were able to create a solid hypothesis. Well, I guess it is more of a basic theory. They believe that it has something to do with the eels’ incredibly long spawning migration when they leave the freshwater rivers and head to the ocean. Perhaps it acts as a night light? If you have any guesses as to what this glow in the dark protein can be used for, why not leave it in the comments below, or leave a message on Facebook. We would love to hear your thoughts.

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