Gene that causes barnacles to avoid ship hulls identified

Aug 16, 2010
Barnacle. Credit: Dan Isaksson

The substance medetomidine has proved effective in preventing fouling of ship bottoms. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have now identified the gene that causes the barnacle to react to the substance, opening up the possibility of an antifouling paint that is gentle both on barnacles and on the environment.

Fouling of hulls is a major problem for world shipping, for private leisure craft as well as large cargo ships. The University of Gothenburg has attempted to develop new, environmentally friendly methods that can limit marine fouling in several large research projects.

Veterinary medicine

One of these focuses on the substance medetomidine, a veterinary medicine that has been shown to prevent barnacle from attaching to the hull. Now researchers at the University of Gothenburg are able to explain why.

Reacting gene indentified

In cooperation with colleagues at the universities of Turku and Helsinki, Professor Anders Blomberg at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology has succeeded in identifying and describing the gene that controls how barnacles sense and react to medetomidine.

Low levels enough

"We have found that medetomidine activates special receptors in barnacle larvae. The receptors emit a signal that causes the larva to swim away from the boat surface, instead of attaching to it. As the are already activated at very low concentrations of the substance, this means that very low levels are also needed to be effective," says Professor Blomberg.

Environmental friendly

The results, which are published in the scientific journal Molecular Pharmacology, explain how it is possible to develop an environmentally friendly and effective antifouling paint which instead of killing barnacles acts as a "deterrent".

"Understanding how the substance works when it binds to the receptor also makes it possible to develop selective agents that only affect and not other ," says Professor Blomberg.

Explore further: Study identifies genetic change in autism-related gene

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Potential antifouling substance can cause paler fish

May 10, 2010

The sedative medetomidine has proved effective at inhibiting fouling and is now being trialled by the EU as an ingredient for the antifouling paints of the future. Research at the University of Gothenburg, ...

First images of barnacle larva's footprint

Oct 27, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- The fouling or growth of sea organisms, such as barnacles, on ships’ hulls causes damage costing many billions of euros annually. In order to prevent this fouling, In Yee Phang of the University ...

Barnacles prove hard to please when house-hunting

Nov 12, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- It’s a tough life out at sea so you might think a small crustacean would be happy to take what it can get when it comes to finding a home - not the humble barnacle.

Shark skin saves naval industry money

Jul 15, 2005

Covering ship hulls with artificial shark skin could help ships sailing smoothly. The growth of marine organisms such as barnacles on ship hulls is a major cause of increased energy costs in the naval industry. Shark skin ...

New, bigger barnacle discovered on Florida’s east coast

Oct 25, 2006

A bigger barnacle than Florida has seen before has made its way to the state’s east coast. Experts aren’t sure what the oversized Megabalanus coccopoma’s impact will be, but it’s been spotted this month in St. Augustine ...

Recommended for you

Study identifies genetic change in autism-related gene

6 hours ago

A new study from Bradley Hospital has identified a genetic change in a recently identified autism-associated gene, which may provide further insight into the causes of autism. The study, now published online in the Journal of ...

NIH issues finalized policy on genomic data sharing

Aug 27, 2014

The National Institutes of Health has issued a final NIH Genomic Data Sharing (GDS) policy to promote data sharing as a way to speed the translation of data into knowledge, products and procedures that improve health while ...

The genes behind the guardians of the airways

Aug 27, 2014

Dysfunctions in cilia, tiny hair-like structures that protrude from the surface of cells, are responsible for a number of human diseases. However the genes involved in making cilia have remained largely elusive. ...

Cancer leaves a common fingerprint on DNA

Aug 25, 2014

Regardless of their stage or type, cancers appear to share a telltale signature of widespread changes to the so-called epigenome, according to a team of researchers. In a study published online in Genome Me ...

User comments : 0