Fish Get Skin Cancer from Ozone Hole
Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science were conducting a survey near the Great Barrier Reef of shark prey, mainly coral trout. Noticing odd dark patches on the usually bright orange fish, they asked for help from a University of Newcastle (U.K.) research team that was studying coral disease.
After eliminating infectious diseases as the cause, scientists determined that the black skin lesions were a form of melanoma — the most dangerous and deadly type of skin cancer. Although scientists have not yet definitively determined that these piscine skin cancers are caused by the ozone hole, they strongly suspect that is the case. Their suspicions are bolstered by the fact that local fisherman report that they’ve been seeing the black spots on coral trout since the 1980s, around the same time that scientists began noticing the depletion of atmospheric ozone and the formation of the ozone hole over Antarctica and Australia.
The researchers found that of 136 coral trout studied, 15% showed dark lesions on the skin, ranging from covering as little as 5% of the skin to nearly 100%. They expect further study will show even higher rates of cancer, as sicker fish were less likely to be caught in their initial sample. As study lead author Michael Sweet says, “The findings are strongly linked to UV and it’s too much of a coincidence for it not to be linked to the hole in the ozone layer.”
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