One of the interesting things we see in the animal world is how many times an animal will have a special protection against an environmental problem. Japanese researchers have discovered that the hippopotamus has a special protection from sunburn.
An animal like the hippopotamus with no hair and no easy way to get out of the sun is especially vulnerable to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Hippos have a lot of skin to protect. A hippo hide can weigh half a ton. Hippos have no sweat glands, so they rely on water or mud to keep them cool in the hot sun. However, they do have glands which secrete a viscous red fluid which protects their skin from sunburn. When the researches analyzed the solution they found that it absorbs ultraviolet light and provides great protection for the hippo.
The solution has been named hipposudoric acid. People have sometimes called it “blood sweat” because of its red color, but it is not sweat and it is not blood. Further analysis of it reveals that it is an effective antibiotic protecting the hippo against infection in the muddy water.
Chemists have had a hard time synthesizing a compound that is stable enough to be an effective sunscreen, but the hippo’s body produces this compound and it is highly stable and efficient. All of life declares the wisdom and planning of the Creator.
Science News, May 29, 2004, page 341
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