By: LiveScience Staff
Published: 08/01/2012 05:11 PM EDT on LiveScience
The first case of skin cancer in a wild marine fish population looks eerily similar to the melanoma that plagues humans, researchers report today (Aug. 1).
Coral trout living on Australia's Great Barrier Reef are directly beneath the Antarctic ozone hole, the world's largest, which is the result of the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere that normally protects humans from harmful UV rays.
"Further work needs to be carried out to establish the exact cause of the cancer, but having eliminated other likely factors such as microbial pathogens and marine pollution, UV radiation appears to be the likely cause," study researcher Michael Sweet, of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.
Sweet and his colleagues examined 136 common coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus), and found 20 individuals, or 15 percent, showed dark skin lesions. The lesions ranged in size from small (covering just 5 percent of the skin) to large, covering the fish's full body, they report online in the journal PLoS ONE.
"The individuals we looked at had extensive — but only surface — melanomas," Sweet said. "This means the cancer had not spread any deeper than the skin, so apart from the surface lesions, the fish were basically healthy."
The skin cancer found on coral trout ranged in coverage from about 5 percent of the fish's body to nealy 100 percent, the researchers reported Aug. 1, 2012.
The lesions looked nearly identical to skin cancer found in humans, he said.
Once the melanoma spreads, Sweet added, fish would likely show signs of sickness, becoming less active and maybe feeding less. As such, the sick fish would be less likely to get caught. "This suggests the actual percentage affected by the cancer is likely to be higher than observed in this study," Sweet said in the statement.
While the diseased fish were caught around Heron Island and One Tree Island, the researchers do not know how many coral trout living elsewhere on the reef have skin cancer.
Until now, researchers had reported melanoma caused by UV exposure in fish only in lab conditions; these fish have been used as a model for studying human skin cancer.
British minister Joseph Priestley discovered the element oxygen (or what he called "dephlogisticated air") on August 1, 1774, by examining the red rust created when mercury is heated. Although the element's discoverer was disputed, Priestley received much of the credit after he published his findings in 1775.
Happy Census Day!
The first U.S. census was held in 1790, recording the population as of Aug. 2 that year. The census, which was mandated in the Constitution, compiled an enormous amount of data that had to be manually tabulated.
On August 3, 1908 two clergymen discovered a nearly complete, buried skeleton of a Neanderthal in a cave at La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. This was the first recognized Neanderthal discovery, and later archaeological digs in the area turned up more than 1,000 other fossil pieces.
Moon Man's Birthday
Aug. 5 marks the first giant leap for Neil Armstrong. The first man to walk on the moon was born on that date in 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Besides being a NASA astronaut, Armstrong was a test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor and U.S. Naval Aviator.
NASA Is Born
On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act. The act created the the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. Since then NASA has put men on the moon, satellites into orbit and spacecraft to the edge of the solar system.
Reaching The North Pole
The USS Nautilus became the first submarine to travel beneath the geographic North Pole on August 3, 1958. The world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus traveled underneath the arctic ice sheet from the Barrow Sea Valley to Greenland.
Astronomers discovered the first known quasar, or quasi-stellar radio source, on August 5, 1962. Previously known as radio source 3C 273, the quasar was described as a star-like object with a visible jet by Dutch astronomer Maarten Schmidt.
First Moon Photos
On July 31, 1964, the first close-up images of the moon's surface were returned by the U.S. space probe Ranger 7. These historic pictures were taken from about 830 miles away. The images paved the way for the moon landing five years later.
A Drive On The Moon
Dave Scott became the first person to drive a vehicle on the moon on July 31, 1971, when he took the battery-powered Lunar Rover (LRV) for a spin. As part of the Apollo 15 mission, Scott drove in the Hadley-Apennine region of the moon in the 460-pound rover.
First Moon Burial
Astronomer Eugene Shoemaker received the first and only moon burial on July 31, 1999. Dr. Shoemaker's ashes were deposited on the moon's surface when NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft was intentionally crashed to end its 19-month mission. Shoemaker co-discovered the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, and is considered one of the founders of the field of planetary science.