Many animals, especially marine animals like zebrafish and sea urchin as well as some birds, can create their own sunlight protection compound, according to a new study. It may one day be possible to use this process to create a better method of sun protection for humans.

In a new study published in the journal eLife, Oregon State University researchers show that zebrafish can produce a compound called gadusol which protects them from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Even in the deep blue sea, marine animals can be exposed to sunlight. The researchers looked at how the zebrafish produced gadusol and were able to reproduce the process in yeast. The hope is that one day the science could lead the production of a pill or an ingredient added to cosmetics that would provide the same benefit for humans.

Their study reveals what the researchers call the “unexpected discovery” that fish can produce gadusol themselves, while previously it was believed that the compound was obtained through their diet. They found that the same pathways for synthesizing gadusol is present in other animals like birds and reptiles.

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